|RUC2015: Effective Research Communication|
|Friday, 26 June 2015 14:50|
Ritah Namisango, Senior Public Relations Officer at Makerere University shares her experience at the RUC2015 Conference. Held in April 2015 in Rwanda the Conference focused on using institutional websites as a tool for Research Uptake, but also explored the importance of institutionalising Research Uptake in DRUSSA Universities.
Strategic Use of Websites
Accessed by both internal and external audiences and providing a platform for online visibility of research and innovations the RUC 2015 Campaign focused on the importance of university websites. “In an increasingly online world, the University website is the equivalent of the university entrance in the physical world. It’s where interaction with the University begins, is fast-tracked and ideally also tracked”. The training centered on using university websites to popularize research, including having a Research Uptake section on the main university website with links to social media pages.
Institutionalising Research Uptake
The RUC 2015 interactive sessions emphasized the need for an institutionalised approach and team- work to overcome challenges in research management and uptake. Most of the participating universities were facing contexts such as different offices and/or researchers/ individuals trying to promote research and innovation, and/or some researchers focusing on publishing in internationally referred journals, publishing for promotion in the academic ladder, but according less attention to the dissemination and uptake.
The Makerere University Strategic Plan stipulates the need to turn Makerere into a research-led university. This strategic approach indicates a conviction that research plays a central role in Makerere University’s relevance in the world. At the Research Uptake Communication (RUC) 2015 conference, we observed that although several strategies such as exhibitions, dissemination conferences, media engagements and scholarly writing workshops are being undertaken, universities will add value to their existing strategies when they institutionalise research management and uptake.
Taking a multi-level approach
At Makerere University, an institutionalised approach will clearly stipulate the role of the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration), the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training, Researchers, Public Relations, and the Communications and Web team. Fortunately, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) and the Director, Research and Graduate Training as the Champion and Leader respectively have participated in the DRUSSA trainings. They are instrumental in providing strategic leadership, policy formulation for institutionalisation of research management and uptake, engagement of researchers, mobilizing funds for Research Uptake as well as coming up with incentives and reward systems for the team committed to research uptake.
With an institutionalised, multi-level approach, the DRUSSA Champion and Leader will highlight for researchers their role in Research Uptake and dissemination and ensure that researchers are trained to effectively communicate research and innovation to different audiences. Through the engagement and training sessions, researchers will be encouraged to make research uptake and dissemination activities an integral part of the research process.
Researchers will work with the Public Relations, Communications and the web team to popularize research and innovation and simplify complex terms in order to come up with communication messages that are attractive and engaging to the target audience/beneficiaries and the wider community. The Public Relations and Communications team will identify an angle that would capture the audience in the beginning, choose a human interest angle, consider impact and appeals, choice of attractive photos and illustrations among other communication techniques.
On an individual level Ritah explained that “The DRUSSA Research Uptake Communication (RUC) Conference enabled me to wholly understand and appreciate my role in research uptake, equipped me with relevant knowledge and skills, and provided an opportunity to benchmark research uptake approaches in participating universities. With this focused training, I feel empowered to perform the role of Research Uptake Communicator. I am ready to work with other offices/authorities and researchers to advance research management and uptake at Makerere University”.
Ritah Namisango is the Senior Public Relations Officer, Makerere University