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The communication of research: insights from our Topic Guide

The communication of research is a subject that concerns many in the policy research communities across the developing world. The subject is extensive and covers more than just the channels and tools that research centres and other similar organisations employ to communicate their ideas and arguments.

When understood more broadly it is possible to move beyond the very limited discussion that the recent literature on knowledge translation has supported. Instead one can look at how discourses and narratives are developed and how they affect other aspects of the space in which politics and ideas coexist.

The emergence of new technologies and the use of digital tools provides an opportunity to study their impact on policymaking, research and communications.

Similarly, a focus on the political space in which a number of actors engage with each other makes it possible to treat key actors like the media as political and economic agents in their own right and not as either the target of researchers’ communication strategies or a channel or tool to be used by researchers and communicators. This view of the media as a player itself demands greater research into its own nature, strengths and weaknesses.

The Topic Guide’s sub-section on the the media and policy influence draws in part from research undertaken in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on the relationship between the media, knowledge and politics:

One of the main concerns regarding the media and its relationship with research in developing countries is the way how journalists and researchers interact with each other. Generally, the link between these two actors is quite weak, for a variety of reasons; in Kenya and Uganda, for instance, while the media has focused on corruption, it has not looked at the link between tax collection, public spending and governance, due to a lack of strong networks that involve the media and allow it to use existing research and evidence (Relay, 2012). In India, journalists write stories on development but they are still not well informed by relevant research, signaling the need for a space where journalists and researchers can interact (Relay, 2012).

Further, research must comply with a number of conditions for the media to take an interest in it and report it. Research has to be ‘newsworthy’, concise and not overly technical. It has been found that if research is too complex or lacks readily-translatable ‘headlines’ its media coverage reduces considerably (Makere University, 2011; Uceda, 2011). The ‘knowledge gap’ between the media and research compounds this problem: most journalists in developing countries do not have specialized knowledge on many issues such as science, development or climate change, which leads to oversimplified news coverage, sensationalism, and distrust on the part of researchers  (Makere University, 2011Kakonge, 2011Vincent, 2007Carpenter and Yngstrom, 2010).

More cases and studies of the media and how it functions in developing countries would be of great help for Politics and Ideas’ research agenda. Please share any studies you have.