Research to Action’s ten most popular blog posts from 2011!


2011 represented Research to Action’s first full year. It was a busy one for the team, with lots of work done to try and improve the site, and ensure key content is in place.

A lot has been achieved, but there is more to be done; and 2012 promises to be an even busier year, with more improvements  to the site due soon, and a renewed focus on providing key resources.

As a way of reflecting on our journey over 2011, we have brought together the top 10 blog posts from the year (based on our web stats) – just in case you missed any of them!

1. Research Communications and Uptake Survey: Unpacking the Results

Conducting the Research Communications and Uptake Survey provided a fascinating insight into the current ‘state of play’ between what people think they know about research communications and uptake, and what they would like to know more of

2. Presenting Complex Data Visually: Using web-based tools to make your development data travel

Data and statistics are a powerful way to communicate development research.   Solid figures can add weight and sustenance to research findings and through organisations such as the World Bank and the Open Data Foundation, the internet now provides an ever-growing open-data source for development statistics in the fields of economics, finance, healthcare, education, labor, social science, technology, agriculture, the environment and much more.

3. Should we use “indigenous knowledge”… even if it’s wrong?

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in international development circles in protecting and using indigenous knowledge. Countries such as Kenya and Nigeria have set up agencies to systematically evaluate traditional medicines while NGOs, such as Practical Action, evaluate and document indigenous knowledge on a range of topics.

4. Research communications and uptake: drawing inspiration from Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point

Rarely do research communications travel a familiar pathway and reach end users in a linear way to influence policy and practice. We often hear that researchers and research institutions frequently fail in communicating their research effectively, that policy makers and practitioners are not listening, and intermediaries are failing in their efforts to bring leading protagonists together.

5. What problem are you trying to solve?

How many of you have a friend/boss/mother-in-law who jumps in with solutions before really understanding your problem? If so, I’m sure you’ll agree that it is very annoying! In fact, the temptation to jump in with a solution before we have fully understood what problem we are trying to solve is very common and this tendency seems to be particularly prevalent when it comes to communication strategies.

6. Getting Health Research into Policy and Practice: Approaches, opinions and incentives

Most researchers and communication specialists who work on international health are passionate about their work and about making a difference and improving health and health care. Such a vision can be enshrined in institutional mission statements.

7. Reality comes first: Planning for policy influence

Good quality research can easily get overlooked by policymakers, even after receiving widespread acclaim. The path to influencing policy is often shrouded in mystery and confusion. Describing policy-making as a process does not capture the complex reality of getting research into use. If you are serious about your research having an impact on policy, you need to start with a plan!

8. How to Survive and Thrive in the Knowledge Pond

Geoff Barnard (CDKN) opened ‘Improving the impact of development research through better communication and uptake’, an AusAid and UKCDS-sponsored workshop that took place in London 29th and 30th November. His keynote presentation focused on how to survive and thrive in what he called the ‘Knowledge Pond– the community of practice associated with knowledge sharing and research communications.

9. Lacking in ‘capacity’? Why workshopping isn’t always the (whole) answer!

In the Summer of 2005, I can remember watching a report during the evening news on the state run national broadcaster in Zambia on the implementation of the first round of Global Fund funding which aimed to ‘develop capacities’ in the fight against HIV&AIDS. Scene after scene of workshops, seminars and meetings with happy participants receiving certificates declaring them to have sufficient knowledge to prevent and combat HIV&AIDS.  I thought cynically to myself that the only outcome of note to emerge from the Global Funds investment was a massive growth in the hospitality industry!

10.‘Scholarly Networking’ and ‘Open Access’ – Are we asking the right questions?

Do we need “a Craigslist for the humanities” or a “Facebook for scholars”? Such questions are being discussed on the website of Project Bamboo – a multi-institutional, interdisciplinary project that brings humanities scholars, librarians, and information technologists together to tackle the question: “How can we advance arts and humanities research through the development of shared technology services?” The project wiki contains a summary of workshop findings from 2008 entitled ‘What do scholars mean by ‘scholarly networking’?’. It makes for interesting reading.