Primus Inter PARES: First among equals—practical strategies for young adult PAtient RESearch partners (PARES) by young adult PARES

Abstract Background This manuscript is coauthored by 15 young adult Patient RESearch partners (PARES) with lived and living mental health experiences and three institutional researchers across Canada involved in a patient-oriented research (POR) study called the HEARTS Study: Helping Enable Access and Remove Barriers To Support for Young Adults with Mental Health-Related Disabilities. We share our reflections, experiences and lessons learned as we grapple with the field of POR for its lack of clarity, hierarchical structures, internalized ableism, and accessibility challenges, among others. To mitigate the difficulties of POR, we started by laying the groundwork for equality by embracing the principle of Primus Inter Pares: First Among Equals as the foundation of our approach. In this way, we began with what we know for certain: the inherent worth and dignity of young adults as equal partners, recognizing their expertise, worldviews, creativity, and capacity to contribute meaningfully and intentionally to the research that affects their lives and futures. Main Body The manuscript underscores the need to reconceptualize meaningful engagement in POR, advocating a shift from traditional, biased paradigms that fail to address the complexities faced by young adults with mental illness. It introduces what we have termed Adaptive and Differential Engagement, underscoring the necessity of tailoring participation to individual preferences and circumstances alongside a Tripartite Compensation model that promotes fair and holistic remuneration in research collaborations. Then we discuss the approaches we have conceptualized, such as Equitable Dialogue, Trust Architecture, Community Continuum, Unity in Diversity, Shared Stewardship, and Agile Frameworks that collectively aim to overcome barriers like language intimidation, power imbalances, framework fatigue, consultation burnout, trust deficits, and systemic discrimination and exclusion. The manuscript does not seek to prescribe any universal or standardized solutions; in fact, it seeks the opposite. Instead, it offers a thoughtful and transparent contribution to the POR canon, providing resources for young adults eager to engage in research and institutional researchers aspiring to collaborate with them. Conclusion This manuscript is a product of our collective learning and critical self-evaluation. By integrating theoretical insights with practical strategies, we present a justice-oriented blueprint for an inclusive and egalitarian approach to POR. We advocate for applications of POR that are responsive to the individualized contexts of young adult PARES, ensuring their perspectives are central to the research with the resources to take the lead should they choose.
Plain Language Summary Together with a graduate student, co-supervisors, and 15 young people from across Canada who have experience with mental health challenges, this paper looks at how research involving young adults as patient research partners can be better. We feel that the types of research that are supposed to include us are often not clear enough and make it hard to join, especially those with unique life situations and health issues. So, in this paper, we suggest a few new ways of doing things where everyone is treated equally. We call it Primus Inter PARES: First Among Equals. This means young people are just as important as anyone else in research. We want to change the old ways that do not consider our unique experiences as young people with mental health issues. We came up with new ideas like 'Equitable Dialogue' and 'Trust Architecture' to ensure everyone understands the research and feels that they can trust the process. We also suggest ways to make sure different voices are heard and that everyone has a fair chance to contribute. We do not just offer a one-size-fits-all solution; instead, we share many ways to improve research to help young adults who want to be part of research and for the researchers who want to work with us. Our paper is about making research fair and including everyone's point of view. We hope this will make the research better for everyone, especially for young adults.
Research Involvement and Engagement. 2024 May 08;10(1):45