Impact Practitioners

Ten tips for innovative and impactful research dissemination

By 20/10/2022

This 12-page academic paper written by a group of European researchers presents ten tips for innovative and impactful dissemination of research findings. It will help you distribute your work in a new and engaging way and therefore increase the chances of achieving non-academic impact. 

At the core of the paper are digital technologies, which are presented as useful tools for finding both new collaboration partners and funding opportunities, and help you to better reach and engage your audiences.

The authors point to the paradox of academics limiting themselves to a narrow range of outputs for their research – journal articles, books, and conference presentations – when there exists a world of digital opportunities to communicate. They present a 10-step plan to make yourself stand out and achieve more understanding and uptake of your research so that it ultimately has an impact.

Step 1: Get the basics right

Start by asking yourself what you want to achieve by disseminating your research, and define your objectives. Map your audience and be clear about who you want to reach, for which purpose and what their characteristics might be. Target and frame your messages and create a dissemination plan of what you will release and when. 

Step 2: Keep the right profile

Create and use personal websites, social media accounts, researcher identifiers (such as ORCID) and academic social networks (e.g. ResearchGate) to make yourself and your research visible. They allow you to demonstrate your expertise and make useful connections. Try to keep a sustained presence with new and engaging content that reinforces your messaging. Be approachable and let your personality shine through. 

Step 3: Encourage participation

Don’t just broadcast your findings; instead try to foster engagement, participation and collaboration with others. Active involvement of citizens and other audiences outside academia can help you increase the societal impact of your research. Two examples of research projects that are great at engagement and collaboration are Zooniverse and Foldit.

Step 4: Open science for impact

Embracing open access to publications, data and tools can boost the impact of your research. Open Access articles receive nearly a fifth more citations than average and pre-printing allows you to communicate your results much earlier than academic journals would allow. It also promotes the transparency and reproducibility of your research. 

Step 5: Remix traditional outputs

To better reach your audiences, try using some innovative methods such as visual/video abstracts, blog posts, non-specialist summaries, tweets and press releases alongside your traditional outputs.

Step 6: Go live

With research moving beyond the university walls, you should hit the road too and participate in science festivals, TED talks and ‘science slams’. It can open the doors to new opportunities and impacts. 

Step 7: Think visually

Try to include visual elements while distributing your research such as data visualisations, infographics, art, multimedia or science comics. Your research will be more attractive and it will help your audience understand and interpret your findings. 

Step 8: Respect diversity

Through communication, you can help to raise awareness about diversity and increase the visibility and inclusion of underrepresented groups. Additionally, your research should always reach all those who might be affected by it: create messages that are respectful and reflect people of different age, sex and abilities. 

Step 9: Find the right tools

Innovative dissemination often requires different resources and skills than traditional methods. Luckily you can find help online, for example on the OpenUP Hub website, where you can search for tools and resources. 

Step 10: Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

You should always evaluate your efforts to know what works and which strategies failed to generate the desired impacts. For your monitoring and evaluation, you should ideally use a combination of quantitative and qualitative indicators. 

In conclusion, innovative dissemination methods can help you reach new audiences and achieve a bigger societal impact. Try to be strategic about them and use them to your advantage: they should help you reach your goals, not further burden you. Overall, this resource is a great starting point for giving you an idea of what is out there and providing you with ten simple tips for the original distribution of your research.

This article is part of our initiative, R2A Impact Practitioners. To find out more, please click here.

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