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19 September 2018
Effectively communicating research for maximum impact Print
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 17:09

The folders on the computers of African researchers and scientists are full of information that can benefit ordinary Africans and inform the work of policymakers, officials in national and local government, NGOs and CBOs, not to mention Regional Economic Communities like SADC, COMESA and ECOWAS. Yet, how much of this, often groundbreaking, research actually reaches those upon whom it can have an impact? Very little, says a study done for the UK National Commission for UNESCO in May this year.

What`s more, says the report titled, "The Need for an African Science News Service", African media often carry lengthy reports on research done in the United States and Europe, but fail to feature local research. In the preamble to the study, authors Julie Clayton and Marina Joubert say it`s considerably more difficult for African science journalists to obtain information about research being carried out within universities and other institutions on their own continent than about research in the developed world.

Launched earlier this year, DRUSSA directly addresses this glaring gap by working with universities to make African research more accessible. The programme tackles the problem of research not getting to wider audiences on three fronts:

-- by professionalising Research Uptake and Research Uptake Management and building the skills sets of individuals at universities involved in or responsible for disseminating research. DRUSSA offers a postgraduate programme that consists of short, accredited courses in Research Uptake and Utilisation as well as an MPhil and PhD programme in Science and Technology Studies (Specialisation in Research Uptake & Utilisation).

-- by consulting and collaborating with universities around strengthening these universities internal systems, structures and processes to facilitate effective communication of research.

-- by engaging a variety of audiences to create awareness of, contribute to and build the discourse around the emerging discipline of Research Uptake Management in the field of academic research management. This is done digitally by way of the DRUSSA blogsite and DRUSSA App as well on social media, namely Twitter (@DRUSSAfrica), Facebook and LinkedIn.

The UNESCO study focuses on the interaction between the media and scientists and it is important for both to learn how to communicate with one another. However, DRUSSA considers this only one aspect among many when getting research taken up. While the media and the role they can play must not be underrated, there are more options today for communicating research than ever before. Academics, researchers, research managers and communications and extension officers need to embrace the many online platforms, including the social media available to them when disseminating research. DRUSSA`s Digital Engagement Strategy strongly focuses on making use of these online platforms to communicate with its various audiences.

The establishment of an African Science News Service to improve the communication of research by African academics as proposed by the study is to be welcomed. Reviewing the UNESCO report and drawing it into the DRUSSA context, a recent report on the UK`s Department for International Affairs website says such a news service will also hold “the potential to improve the quality and scope of research coverage and encourage the training of journalists within Africa”.


Linda Cilliers is DRUSSA`s Online Media Specialist



ROSE ROSE RUTO-KORIR said on 2012-10-03 16:43:19:
The folders of researchers are full of un-used research because of the legion factors surrounding research. Therefore, beyond communication of research, there is need to think broadly about why research up-take remains minimal. Prime among these is the `terminal paradigm` as to what engenders research- the qualification. Most research is done for the award of some degree, as the ultimate objective. Once a researcher has achieved this, more or less, anything else, including the inherent value of the research, can get to the shelf. Apart from conscientious efforts to acknowledge this limitation, there is need to shift researchers paradigms to embrace a holistic view of research, as definitely multidimensional, beyond research for qualification.
Eunice Kamaara replied on 2012-10-21 21:08:21:
Thank you Rose. I agree with you on the need "to shift researchers paradigms to embrace a holistic view of research, as definitely multidimensional, beyond research for qualification". I quote you directly because I could not say it better than you said. We must move with the times to appreciate that we can no longer have research reports gathering dusts in library shelves. In my teaching of research methodology, I insist that unimplemented research is unethical because it amounts to waste of time. Making recommendations to others to implement one`s research does not make any sense unless one is making these to a person who is under their authority or advise. often we read in students` thesis " the government should...." and am like, who are you to tell government what it should do. In view of the dynamism of knowledge, I think we should work to introduce short in-service courses on research methodology for academic research supervisors. I know I have said this before but I wish to say it again for emphasis: I went through a series sessions of training on Multi-method Research by PASGR and wish to recommend it to all researchers. It was an eye opener.
Alvine L Boma said on 2012-10-24 14:03:01:
Alvine Longla Boma I have always wondered if it is of any import to carry out research, conduct studies and make recommendations if they wont impact anyone. besides the rather limited benefit to the individual researcher in the Academia for example (especially where research/publication is a criteria for upward mobility)most often, the outcome of research work remains nothing more than tigers on paper, with little or no benefit to communities.This makes the case for the DRUSSA initiative quite meaningful, innovative and welcome. The initiative has quite tactfully engaged Universities which can be considered not only the brain of civilised societies, but also the fora where most research can be said to be conducted. In a global village such as the one in which we live, what remains to be done is to maximise the virtual spaces for effective communication. Even so, Africans as a whole need to develop a culture of `moving with the times,` according to Eunice. it would sound astounding, even shocking to say here that the internet and its multifarous advantages is not known to many on this side of the globe.perhaps there is additional need to strategise on how to get people to simply go online. There is so much in a click
Pius Akumbu said on 2012-10-26 10:26:43:
I agree with Eunice to a large extent. I think that the role of the researcher can sometimes be extended but to require a researcher to move from his primary role to implement or apply his findings or proposals is to limit productivity. I think that there is need to bring other stakeholders into the sensitization business so that those who are supposed to use research results are encouraged to always look out for the excellent recommendations that could improve on productivity if implemented.