Friday, 12 June 2009

Communicating Global/Development Research

This morning one of the open space sessions during the EADI-Information Management Workshop in Copenhagen was based on the question: What is so specific about communicating Global research? I had the pleasure to discuss this question with 7 other participants sharing experiences and point of views from various angels.

In the first place we had difficulties in understanding the concept of Global research and replaced it by Development research (assuming this concept would be clearer ;-).

Furthermore we argued that it is necessary to distinguish different types of researches and, for the matter of communication, also researchers:
  • Academic research – researchers who apparently mainly communicate in peer reviews;
  • Programme research – evaluations, monitoring of development programs and projects, by academic researchers but mainly by consultants (evaluations, consultancies)
  • Experience based research – research in which the people actually involved in the development processes are directly involved (‘the people’)
These three types of research need different ways of communication (strategies, methods and tools). Thereby issues of validation (“truth” is not equal to “authenticity”) and access to money and power play an important role, be it in a different way for each of the three defined types of research.

They play a role in the way the ‘to be’ communicated information or message can be ‘translated’ for the intended audience. And again, this discussion group concluded that it is as important to make a distinction in the audience, be it academics, policy makers, program managers, press/media or the involved people themselves. This distinction also defines the strategy, methods and tools to be used to communicate about the research.

This all led to the conclusion that ultimately communicating about research is the same as any other communication: all depends who is involved, on the purpose and on the source.

But, while discussing the following questions arose:

Why does one go into development research if not to contribute to development?, and: Why then do so many (academic) development researchers adopt a mode of work which does not contribute to that aim? (by keeping the information among themselves and/or communicating in such a subtle way that is hard to follow for most audiences?

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