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The communication of research -from our Topic Guide

A lot is said about the communication of research. Over the last few years there have been significant changes in the ways that funders view communications and the role it plays within research centres and projects. DFID, for example, has gone from demanding at least 10% of research grants and contracts to be spent on communications to suggesting that this should be closer to 30% to installing a blanket freeze on communications (all within a few years). Other funders have followed similar conflicting decisions. (I am not quick to judge. These decisions respond to political pressures that are understandable -but are also explained by the absence for a clear knowledge base for each. The 10% rule, for example, is not based on any evidence. It was a common sense decision.)

Research communication consultants have multiplied and they offer their services across the developing world and, not surprisingly, have introduced an array of new jargon: research uptake, knowledge brokers, knowledge intermediaries, research translation, target audiences, etc.

Inevitably, this jargon affects how we communicate about the subject of research communication and so we have to use it -some of it at least. This section of the Topic Guide deals with it.

Specifically it addresses three issues:

  • Knowledge translation
  • Digital tools and their impact on policymaking, research and communications
  • The media and policy influence

The later, the media, is one that receives little attention in the literature as it is often assumed to be either an ‘agent of development’ or an actor that can be ‘used’ to communicate research. The little literature that treats the media as an agent in its own right disagrees with this position. A few of examples:

These accounts present an alternative view of research communications. Researchers are not in control of the reach of their ideas or arguments. All they can do is seek to play the games of others -follow rules established by more powerful political players. These, the media, parties, the government, corporations, lobbies, campaigning groups, etc. have a great communication advantage over researchers and use them and their ideas as they see fit.

All that researchers and their centres can do is make the best use possible of the channels and tools available to them to navigate the stormy waters of politics.

Read the whole communication of research Topic Guide.