Over the last decade, patient and public involvement (PPI) has become a requisite in applied health research. Some funding bodies demand explicit evidence of PPI, while others have made a commitment to developing PPI in the projects they fund. Despite being commonplace, there remains a dearth of engagement with the ethical and theoretical underpinnings of PPI processes and practices. More specifically, while there is a small (but growing) body of literature examining the effectiveness and impact of PPI, there has been relatively little reflection on whether the concept/practice of PPI is internally coherent. Here, the authors unpick a 'paradox' within PPI, which highlights a tension between its moral and pragmatic motivations and its implementation. The authors argue that this 'professionalisation paradox' means we need to rethink the practice, and purpose, of PPI in research.
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