Making Research Digestible - Lunch & Learn seminar series

Natalie Nelissen

19th June 2019

Back to blog

This blog post is a summary of the talk given by Mihaela Gruia (Research Retold, mihaela@researchretold.com, Twitter: @researchretold) on 11 June 2019.

Every year, billions of pounds of tax payer’s money go towards funding research aimed at solving society’s problems. However, there is a considerable gap between those who produce research, such as academics, and those who (could) implement it, such as businesses or healthcare practitioners. Research is a rigorous, often long, process resulting in information-dense technical publications which are not very accessible to a non-expert. As a result, research findings often don’t have the real-world impact they could have. 

In the session presented by Mihaela, we started by exploring some reasons why research producers (researchers) and implementers or beneficiaries (stakeholders), would want to talk to each other in the first place. Collaboration helps both parties gain different perspectives and a better overall understanding, resulting in a greater potential impact. Working with a researcher can help stakeholders attain a higher quality standard. Working with stakeholders can help the research become more responsive to the reality of the market and people’s needs. Moreover, we discussed how we can get researchers and stakeholders to work together, focussing on two solutions: co-production and knowledge exchange.

In co-production (co-design, co-creation), researchers and stakeholders work together, determining and/or participating in the research directly. There are several reasons why stakeholders, such as businesses, may want to bring a researcher on board. It allows them to tailor the research to their needs, such as co-deciding on the research question and outcome measures. Another advantage for stakeholders is getting access to expensive resources (such as equipment or facilities) available at universities. Furthermore, researchers also contribute a specific set of skills, a different way of thinking, and up to date knowledge of their field. Finally, collaborating with a researcher provides a ‘quality stamp’ through their authority and reputation.

Knowledge exchange (dissemination, transfer) puts the burden on the researcher to tailor their findings to their stakeholders. Researchers want to create a robust evidence base that makes an impact in the real world, and their funders increasingly demand evidence to demonstrate this. Hence, researchers need to increase the visibility of their work, especially given the ever-increasing number of publications, and claims that a lot of research may not get read or cited. Furthermore, producing accessible content means researchers can stay in control of the narrative, without relying on the (often sensationalist) media. This is important as people tend to find it hard to evaluate whether information is accurate as demonstrated by the recent popularity of terms such as ‘fake news’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’.

Research Retold helps researchers translate their long (rigorous) technical reports into top level findings which are presented in an accessible and visually engaging way. Different stakeholders may require different versions (for example in terms of length or terminology used), such as a policy brief, visual summary or infographic. One tip is to co-produce or at least test the content and format with the intended stakeholder audience. For more advice and examples of their work, visit www.researchretold.com and follow them on Twitter @researchretold. You can also read Mihaela’s blog post about this event, which includes a serving of delicious food puns here.

For our upcoming lunch and learn events, please visit our events page.

Natalie Nelissen

Evidence and Evaluation Lead

Read bio