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1 March 2017
Tools & Tips


From our Tech Guru: Digital Platforms and Reporting

Universities in the DRUSSA programme have actively been growing the presence of Research Uptake Communication material, in the form of stories about uptake of evidence-based development research happening at their Universities. An important element of that process is gauging the website-audience response to the digitally published content. DRUSSA.net site manager Caite McCann has some experience to share on digital platforms with a focus on useful insights for reporting. 

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The New DRUSSA Online Research Communication Guide

An online Research Communication Guide  was produced as part of a series of DRUSSA learning materials designed to support universities to build capacity in communicating research, as well as to embed good practice in research communication within participating institutions. 

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From our Tech Guru: Using MailChimp for Research Uptake Communication

altaltAn important tool for directed Research Communication is email. Mailchimp is an excellent emailing service that allows you to set up multiple subscriber lists and manage mass emailings as well as track usage. Our Tech Guru, Caite McCann, gives us the low down on designing and sending Mailchimp newsletters.

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Engaging Your Audience: Presenting Your Research Evidence

Powerpoint presentations seem to be the ideal way of disseminating research findings and optimizing Research Uptake. At  workshops, conferences and teaching events you have a captive audience, what could go wrong? Most of us has discovered either as a presenter or a listener that there is far too much that can go wrong. You often have limited time to present the result of years of work, there can be technical difficulties, power failures when you have prepared a visual presentation, or you may just not be very comfortable with public speaking. Our in-house tech guru, Caite McCann has produced a technical guide to setting up a good power-point presentation.

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Strategies for Effective Research Uptake Communication and Impact

A working paper entitled “Impact and Communications Strategy: Supporting Projects to Achieve Impact”, based on previous briefs prepared for research projects jointly funded by UKaid and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) outlines an Impact and Communications Strategy and identifies some of the key best practices in terms of Research Communication as well as the kinds of support that a funder, or research institution, can provide to promote Research Uptake.

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Effective Stakeholder Engagement To Influence Policymakers

A key consideration for Research Uptake is stakeholder engagement. In its Handbook Series DRUSSA has explored both the theories behind Stakeholder Engagement as well as the practice. A recently published Policy Influence Toolkit produced by MHIN and the ODI explores these issues further, specifically in the context of engaging with policymakers.

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Evidence-Based Research has Impact

Measuring the impact of Research Uptake interventions is a tricky business, particularly given the lead-time between activities and the potential impact. It is often difficult to unpack the impact of a particular event or project from other factors that may have played a role. Establishing evidence of impact is important however, not only to justify specific programme outcomes but also to inform your overall theory of change.

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One Stop Shop for Research Use Resources

Research Uptake, or research utilization, is a consideration throughout the research process. In fact it starts even before the research begins, in the conceptualising and design of the study where stakeholders should ideally be consulted on their needs and expectations.

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TTI-PEC Approach to Developing a Policy Engagement and Communications Workplan

Uptake and use of research evidence is more likely to happen if there is an understanding of the needs of users.  The Think Tank Initiative Policy Engagement and Communications Workplan (TTI-PEC) toolkit is a useful resource when thinking through a comprehensive Policy Engagement and Communications strategy and workplan.

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How to find a needle in the internet haystack: more easy tools for Google searching

In part two of this series DRUSSA’s resident technology guru Caite McCann shares more secrets on how Google’s multi-billion dollar search functionality can make for richer internet searching on any device…including your mobile phone.

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Tools for Google searching: hot tips to make it easier to find what you’re looking for on websites

DRUSSA’s resident technology guru Caite McCann gives us some intel on how we can benefit from the billions of dollars spent on Google’s search functionality.

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DRUSSA Universities combine their strategic thinking to mutual benefit

A group of leaders and champions from DRUSSA Universities in Sub-Saharan Africa recently gathered to collectively draft a guidelines document on ‘How to write a University Research Uptake Strategy’  

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Tools for academic publishing: why it’s worth knowing about EPUBs

altaltDRUSSA’s resident technology guru Caite McCann gives us the inside intel on the most popular format in digital publishing

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Producing new research vs communicating what we already have… what do you think?

@DFIDEvidence recently tweeted the question in the title above to @DRUSSAfrica. A tweet of 140 characters proved too few for what PLATFORM2013 editor Louise McCann wanted to contribute to the conversation. She's chipped in with a short blog that doesn't involve the opening of any PDFs.

 

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Building institutional capacity for RU series now available for download
While it is important for individuals to be enabled to become proficient in the management of Research Uptake (RU), efforts to get research into use will not come to fruition unless the institutional environment is conducive to such activity. Although institutional capacity building may be the more difficult goal to achieve in the short term, it has the potential to produce more impactful and sustainable long-term results.
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Career Skills Toolkit Part I: How to run a `Publishing for Research Uptake campaign'

Using learning from our recent Research Uptake Communications [RUC2013] Campaign that included the PLATFORM2013 Research Uptake publication, DRUSSA’s Louise McCann shares a 7-part blog series on running your own successful ‘Publishing for Research Uptake campaign’. Follow this career-skills series for useful tools, tips, examples and templates – from strategy to implementation, monitoring and reporting.

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Understanding the world of the journalist
A lot has been written (including on these blog pages) about how scientists and journalists can better work together. In fact, this subject is a key component of the DRUSSA postgraduate short course on science communication presented by science journalist Marina Joubert on behalf of the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. 
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Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake Part V: Monitoring & Evaluation

In the first part of my series, “Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake”, I identified five areas to “link research efforts with action”. These were:

  • Creating a climate for Research Uptake
  • Enabling push factors
  • Exchange mechanisms
  • Enabling pull factors
  • Monitoring & Evaluation
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TWAS prize winner's inspired communication is infectious
 
The equation for the best science communication is simple: if the communicator loves the material, the words will be good. The individual will naturally find resourceful ways of getting an engaging message across. Whether you are the scientist or a communications officer conveying the research, it’s not enough only to believe in the veracity of the work—it needs to inspire and excite you. And excitement is infectious. That is how an audience becomes hooked—and that is when science can make a difference in the world.  
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Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake Part IV: Exchange mechanisms and enabling pull factors
In the first part of my series, “Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake”, I identified five areas to “link research efforts with action”. These were:
  • Creating a climate for Research Uptake 
  • Enabling push factors
  • Exchange mechanisms
  • Enabling pull factors
  • Evaluation efforts

 

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Make your story compelling, right from the start

Researchers often become frustrated by the way journalists report their research findings. Writing on the Research to Action website, FUNDESA senior researcher Jorge Benavides says researchers “tend to focus their attention on describing and specifying the problem in all its nuances, isolating all the variables that could introduce bias in their analysis …”

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Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake Part III: Enabling push factors through engagement

altaltIn the first part of my series, “Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake”, I identified five areas for “linking research efforts with action”. These were:

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Communication: Make sure your strategy is failsafe
Communicating with your audiences without a focused strategy and plan of action in place is like randomly firing off a shotgun in the dark hoping some shots will find their target. And no doubt some will find their target, but that is simply no longer good enough. In the early months of DRUSSA’s existence, formulating what eventually became our Digital Engagement Strategy (DES) was the highest priority for the communications team in Cape Town. The DES is based on the innovative strategy developed for the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) by Communications Head Nick Scott. The ODI communications strategy went on to win the Online Strategy of the Year by the Digital Communications Awards in Berlin in September 2012.
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Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake Part II: Creating a climate for Research Uptake

Research Uptake (RU) and its management should be “business as usual” at the university. It is an activity that forms a natural part of the research process--in other words, routine. But how best to achieve this?

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Making the most of events
Events are part and parcel of the DRUSSA programme, with the launch and Benchmarking I events kickingstarting it and presenting the first opportunity for representatives from the various university teams to meet one another and the DRUSSA team. Then, of course, followed the DRUSSA university implementation events during the last half of 2012 and throughout 2013. At these event workshops many implementation teams listed the hosting of events as an excellent way to communicate research to internal as well as external stakeholders. 
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Three golden rules to get research into policy

There you are, at the end of months, even years of toil, ready to release your research into the world. You have checked and rechecked your facts, you have interrogated the robustness of your argument, the work has been reviewed. Every T is crossed and I dotted. You have even gone to great lengths to write an first-rate policy brief, one you are sure will knock the socks off the policymaker who will take your research on its journey into policy and, ultimately, practice. You are set to go. That simple. 

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Digital tools to improve research communication

Science journalist Lynne Smit (who presented the module on social media at the Science Communication short course in Stellenbosch, South Africa) has written an excellent guide for SciDev.Net on digital tools that can be used to better communicate research. She covers topics from how to gather ideas, to organising your research, finding sources, new ways of publishing research, using audio, video and photos, and fact checking. She also explains which tools are appropriate for which tasks. I highly recommend this article.

 
Building institutional capacity for Research Uptake Part I: Overview
The work DRUSSA does with its 24 partner universities is groundbreaking. It focuses on building capacity for Research Uptake (RU) and its management (RUM) in two ways, firstly by finding ways to support capacity at organisational level at these universities, so that each university finds ways to arrange its structures and resources to accommodate and advance
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Knowledge transfer, exchange and Research Uptake strategies and tools for individuals and institutions
In academic life, researchers and scientists, along with their institutions, face two tasks. The first is to generate new knowledge and the second is to turn this knowledge into products and services that can add value to the lives of the end users. The first is easy, because generating new knowledge is what scientists do and what sets them apart. It is with the second task that problems arise. This is because new knowledge generators do not always have the experience to communicate or transfer new knowledge effectively and on target. This article consolidates earlier blogs on knowledge transfer and Research Uptake strategies. I also include my latest Science, Research Uptake, Communication and Utilisation model as it appears in my book currently in press.   
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The power of storytelling as a tool to communicate science

Who doesn’t love a good story? Stories grab our attention and intrigue us. It often holds the power to change our mind about something. But did you know that the use of strategic storytelling is based on science? Research has shown that people make decisions based on emotion, not rationality, says Brett Davidson, director of the Health Media Initiative of the Open Society Foundations in New York. 

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Communicating Research: Ten tips from Wits

In 2008, University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) paleoanthropologist Lee Berger and his young son, Matthew, were exploring a dig site in the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa, when Matthew came across a fossilised hominid clavicle and mandible with a tooth embedded in rock. Realising what he was looking at, Dr Berger couldn’t believe his eyes. The fossil belonged to a young male, whose skull was found a year later.

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Research Uptake Guidance (May 2013)

This new guidance note on Research Uptake produced by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provides some information on the donor’s approach to Research Uptake and practical advice for designing a Research Uptake strategy. Intended as a “beginner’s guide”, some parts of the document may seem simplistic to those who have been involved in Research Uptake for a long time. However, it is still useful in that it provides a simple overview setting out DFID’s approach.

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Strategies and Tools that Facilitate Research Uptake Part II: A working model
Availing research institutions of Research Uptake strategies and tools without their buy-in and cooperation is futile. By itself, a gun is not a killing machine; place it in human hands and it becomes a potential tool for killing. Equally, the Research Uptake strategies and tools discussed in this and my previous blog are not effective on their own. They need the will and passion of people (researchers and scientists) to reach the end users and thus contribute to improving our societies.
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Science Communication Planning: Not easy, but very rewarding

Science communication planning may seem like a piece of cake – that is until you get stuck in and try to develop a “real-world” communication strategy for a “real-world” research project. That was one of the key insights that emerged from the three-day science communication planning workshop held at Stellenbosch University a while ago. The other one was that the planning process can be greatly rewarding, if you get it right.

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University radio as a tool for Research Uptake
African universities have long recognised the value of broadcasting on their own radio stations. From relatively humble beginnings as informal, largely student-run community-based stations that sprung up in the early 1980s, predominantly in South Africa, university-run radio stations have become a staple in many countries across the continent.
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Your Research Uptake Web Page: Five tips
As part of a larger Research Uptake Communications Campaign, DRUSSA is motivating each DRUSSA participant university to develop a Research Uptake page on its existing university website. The Research Uptake Communication Campaign 2013 (RUC2013) will be launched at the Association for Commonwealth Universities’ centenary event in London in October, and will showcase the DRUSSA universities’ capacity to get policy-directed research into use. 
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Whose policy brief is it anyway?

A policy brief can be a powerful tool to get your message across to policymakers, and it is an important component within an overall communication strategy that can encourage successful Research Uptake. But what is it exactly and what makes a good and effective policy brief?

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New from DFID: Guide to Research Uptake (2013)

This guide to Research Uptake produced by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provides information on the donor’s approach to Research Uptake and practical advice for designing a Research Uptake strategy for the research projects that it funds. This is a useful, high-level guide on the various stages of developing, implementing and monitoring a Research Uptake strategy. 

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DFID Guidance Note on Research Communication (2009)

The Department for International Development (DFID) publication, a Guidance Note on Research Communication, is a useful, high-level guide that explains the various stages of developing, implementing and monitoring a communication strategy. 

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Communicating Research Uptake: What to present and how to present it

If those of us whose job it is to disseminate research want to make our efforts reach the end users and make research have the impact it deserves, we need to draw a distinction between the way in which researchers and scientists present their research to us and how we, the disseminators of research, innovations and discoveries present this information to our audiences. 

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Strategies & tools to facilitate Research Uptake Part I: A working model
Research Uptake strategies and tools are like sharp kitchen utensils that can either serve us or slice us, depending on how we handle them. Similarly, issues of Research Uptake and utilisation worldwide are like a battle between researchers and research institutions, and their audiences, namely the public, the private sector and civil society (policymakers, NGOs and CBOs). This is not a struggle with guns and bombs, but rather one of capacity, habit, attitude and ego.  
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Great presentation on stakeholder analysis
This is a great presentation on stakeholder analysis by Steve Raybould, published on Research to Action. The presentation (on Slideshare) is a step-by-step guide on what a stakeholder is, the purpose of doing stakeholder analyses, meeting stakeholder needs and the stakeholder analysis process.

After working through the presentation, you should be able to describe a stakeholder, who your institution’s stakeholders are, how you can prioritise stakeholders using stakeholder analysis, how to categorise stakeholders and how stakeholder mapping can identify key stakeholder groups.

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Great resource to track your online footprint

Do you know what your digital shadow looks like? Or the size and shape of your online footprint? If not, or if you’re not even sure what these two concepts mean, then a new publication by Sarah Goodier and Laura Czerniewicz at the OpenUCT Initiative at the University of Cape Town might be just what you need.

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Short course materials: A useful resource
In the afterglow of the success of last year`s short courses (Modules 1 and 2), Research Uptake and Utilisation for Impact and Science Communication, the MPhil and PhD components of the DRUSSA postgraduate programme began with the intake of the first cohort by CREST at the University of Stellenbosch (US) in February. The DRUSSA Class of 2013 attended the first two modules of the degrees, the topics of which were Research Evaluation and Research Impact Design. Altogether 13 candidates (seven MPhil and six PhD ) from nine 
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Leveraging your institution`s research

One of the smartest ways for a university to raise its profile is to use what many already have in abundance—research. And the quickest, easiest way of publicising research is to do it through the university`s website. Surely, in terms of getting the biggest return on time and effort invested, this has to be the first and most obvious port of call for those whose job it is to publicise institutional activities.

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Research Uptake: The role of the university communicator*

* For the purposes of this blog, the term “university communicator” is used as a blanket term to refer to university communications, media and public relations officers; research, research management, extension and community outreach officers; and scientists and researchers acting as communicators of their own research—in fact anybody involved in promoting Research Uptake at an institution of higher learning.

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How can Twitter be of value in a scholarly environment?

by Linda Cilliers

 

You'll be forgiven if, at a glance, you weighed Twitter and found it wanting. My conclusion too, at first. A little tweet that runs to a mere 140 characters does seem rather insubstantial. But think again.

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Know thine audience

In any form of communication -- whether popular in nature via TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and the like -- or academic -- via articles in journals, papers presented at conferences or books -- the first thing on which to get clarity is the audience you’re trying to reach.

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Useful resources...

The Tools and Tips section of our blog aims to give advice not only on how to manage your research, but also how to translate academic language into a language that is understandable -- in fact compelling -- to various audiences. On the one hand, you have to present it in such a way that it makes a good argument to, say, a policymaker.

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Putting Twitter to work on your research

As technology rockets ahead at breakneck speed, it is difficult to keep up with what the most effective means are to publicise one’s work. Many (if not most) academics spurn the idea of the social media, but in this age of connectivity, it has never been easier to make research public. Volumes and volumes of research don’t find their way into use because the research isn’t made accessible.

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