Parents are increasingly searching online for information supported by research but find it difficult to find results relevant to their experiences. The goal of the Parenting Science Gang (PSG) project was to use the Internet to help parents ask the questions they wanted to have answered by science. Using Facebook, PSG engaged parents of young children in the radical co-production of studies, while not creating undue burden on time or restricting participants due to disability, financial status or location. By giving parents control, PSG ensured that the chosen questions were ones that were of most interest to them. This paper presents eight projects designed by PSG Facebook groups in collaboration with experts.
Most projects had health related themes, often prompted by dissatisfaction with treatment by health professionals or feelings of being marginalised by motherhood, as well as by the lack of evidence. The PSG approach channelled these frustrations into actions. All eight PSG groups successfully collaborated with experts to co-produce studies for their questions. This radically user-led design meant the PSG staff and the experts had to live with a high degree of uncertainty. Nevertheless, PSG achieved its goal of academically productive projects (with at least eight papers published or in preparation, seven conference presentations and testimony to the Infant Feeding All-Party Parliamentary Group), but as important were the positive effects it had on many of the participants, both parents and experts. For example, parents said their science skills and their confidence had increased.