DFID is a recognised leader among donors in its efforts to support and develop better research communications. A recent report ‘Learning Lessons on Research Uptake and Use: Donor review on research communication’ looked across a range of donors for examples of good practice and emerging lessons. Its aim was to see what these donors’ priorities and strategies had in common, so that we could begin to harmonise and make the most of the tactics and techniques that we’ve learned do work.
While examples of good practice and innovative initiatives were found, there was still an overwhelming lack of strategic approaches: ‘Despite many promising initiatives, most donors do not appear to have a strategic approach to research communication, and do not seem to make best use either of their own or other donors’ experiences. Responsibility for research communication is generally dispersed between different departments within an agency, which are at times not always aware of each others’ programmes. These range from embedding research to supporting specific research communication programmes. There is varied understanding of the term “research communication”.’
There is also a continuing emphasis by both funders and researchers on the supply side – producing and disseminating publications – with a weak understanding of and capacity to support the demand side of research communication.
For its part, DFID is trying to give research projects more guidance about research communication. A Guidance Note on Research Communication for DFID-Funded Research that was developed to help the newest research programme consortia is online now in R4D’s Communications Corner. Research programme consortia will be expected to employ skilled senior communications specialists, and to follow the 10 Guiding Principles outlined in the notes.