Making your research accessible

Innovative approaches to communicating research

By 03/09/2014

English might be the common denominator between an academic paper and a policy brief, but what sets them apart is the way the words are strung together. Like other think tanks, the Center for Study of Science Technology and Policy (CSTEP) undertakes research to influence and inform policy making. The individuals who constitute our rather large and ambiguous target audience, called ‘policy makers’, are usually government administrators, and not researchers. Therefore, our research messages need to be simple and straightforward, with the technicalities of research unpacked, if we are to capture their attention. Technical language and jargon will blow past them like a leaf in a storm so we use non-technical language to communicate our research findings.

The Communications and Policy Engagement (CPE) team have a clear remit: to support CSTEP’s researchers in the development of communication outputs that cater for the information requirements of a range of actors including policy makers, funders, academics and the media. In addition to playing a supportive role, the CPE team are also mandated to bring visibility to the organisation and build CSTEP’s brand. A two-pronged approach has been adopted to achieve these objectives:

  1. Using Infographics. “A picture speaks a thousand words” is a motto the CPE team uses as a guiding principle for one branch of its communications activities. Bhawna Welturkar, the team’s Graphic Designer, worked with Susan Koshy, CSTEP’s PEC facilitator, to design a systematic process for providing visual representations of parts of CSTEP’s research in its communication outputs.
  2. Developing a Media Strategy.  The media is not just a channel through which CSTEP engages with its audience, it is also part of the audience that consumes its research findings. So it is essential for CSTEP to understand what makes the media tick, and how best to utilise the media to impact policy as well as bring visibility to the organisation. Thus, Arushi Sen, CPE’s Media Coordinator, and Susan Koshy identified strategies and activities to leverage the potential of the media in communicating CSTEP’s research.

These PEC-related activities marked the beginning of a fruitful journey, which bore useful insights on how to build CSTEP’s brand using a range of communication tools and approaches. With a clear goal in mind, and armed with the tools, the CPE team got to work — it was time to implement and test out the theoretical strategies and processes that had been developed.

The artefacts that CSTEP presents on this platform is entitled, ‘Innovative Approaches to Communicating Research: The CSTEP Story’. It is a narrative about the process, and outcomes, of putting theory to practice. While Bhawna narrates her story of developing and using infographics, Arushi describes the journey of breathing life into CSTEP’s media strategy.

Showcase exhibit: View Innovating approaches to communicating research – The CSTEP story



This post has been produced as part of the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme. However, these are the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of TTI. You can find all ongoing outputs related to this project via the PEC mini-site on Research to Action. To get updates from the PEC programme and be part of the discussion sign-up to our RSS or email updates. You can also follow our progress via Twitter using the following hashtag #ttipec.

Feature image courtesy of CSTEP.

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