|RUC2014 Blog 1: Research Uptake Communications: connecting with your public ?|
|Wednesday, 21 January 2015 06:34|
The DRUSSA Research Uptake story gives you some food for thought on how, by using RUC skills, DRUSSA Universities can further contribute to unlocking the potential of girls and women in Sub-Saharan Africa.
2013: The year fascinating snapshots of SSA Research brought a bigger picture of the region’s research into public view
In 2013 I worked with 20 researchers from DRUSSA Universities as their Research Uptake Communications coach. These researchers had been strategically selected by University leaders to feature research that was aligned with the development mission statement of their University. The researchers worked on their Research Uptake Communications skills as they drafted articles that told the story of the impact their evidence-based development research was making, or could potentially make.
This project was part of the Research Uptake Communications [RUC 2013] campaign for DRUSSA Universities. The theme of this campaign was ‘Accessible DRUSSA University Research for Policy-makers’: and that it was. But it was also much more than that. These were not hard-core academic articles that required a post-doctoral degree to read. Nor were they dumbed-down versions of excellent academic research. These were solid evidence-based development research articles written in understandable, user-friendly language that talked about important research in a way that made it relevant for policy-makers and interesting for the person on the street. The SSA researchers blazed a trail with their accessible Research Uptake Communications.
The articles, published in a magazine called PLATFORM2013, and featured online in many guises (from articles on the Universities websites, to blogs on DRUSSA.net, to a full online digital version and individual article versions that could be distributed via email and social media, etc.) made for fascinating reading. Together, they gave an inspirational overview of the world-class pro-poor research coming out of SSA, written in a style that took popular media good practice into account. For instance:
These are just a taste of the broad range of pro-poor research put out to the world in an accessible way by RUC2013. The Research Uptake Communications skills developed in this process will continue to be put to meaningful use.
2014 – The year the term ‘Research Uptake Communications professional’ became a popular conversation topic at DRUSSA Universities.
What does a Research Uptake Communications [RUC] professional do?
The short answer is that they use their skills to support research communication in a way that makes the research relatable, interesting and useful to whatever audience it’s aimed at.
There’s a longer answer that doesn’t cover everything but can possibly be spoken without taking a breath if you’ve built up lung capacity through free-diving. A RUC professional uses her/his communication skills to support researchers to ‘translate’ their academic research into user-friendly forms for different audiences and platforms, so that, through creating awareness, interest, and interaction, it increases the potential for getting evidence-based development into use, or further use, for the greater good. Yes, it’s a big job, but a vital one in an exciting emerging field of expertise. With this in mind the RUC2014 campaign followed on from RUC2013.
The strategy and mechanics of RUC2014 have the underlying intention of establishing a core group with Research Uptake Communications skills within each of the DRUSSA Universities. The logic is that while individual researchers need these skills too, a centralized RUC professionals group in a University can work alongside and share this expertise with many researchers and professional colleagues.
The post-RUC2013 Campaign survey indicated, amongst several other core points, that the DRUSSA Universities suggested that the RUC2014 campaign have a theme. For many reasons, gender was an appropriate choice.
Again, University strategic leadership was involved in the RUC2014 project. They nominated a Research Uptake Communications professional, and selected a researcher with whom s/he could collaborate (this time on the basis of a piece of development research that tied in with the gender theme, and that had already been peer reviewed and published in an academic journal).
Coaching was put in place to provide user-friendly support to learn about how to:
The list of website article topics that have come out of the RUC2014 Campaign provide a fascinating glimpse into gender-related development research in and from SSA. We look forward to sharing the website articles with you in a blog series that will run over the next few months, beginning this week.
2015: Watch this space in the year ahead!
The second blog in the series, from the University of Nairobi, can be found here
Louise McCann is a consultant to the DRUSSA project, and the RUC2013 and RUC2014 coach.