National Institute for Health Research

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Research Design Service Blog

Don't let your research sit on the shelf!

Don't let your research sit on the shelf!

01 July 2019

Louise Halbert, Business Manager, RDS East Midlands

Disseminating your research findings is an important component of the research process. Indeed Chris Whitty, head of NIHR and the government’s Chief Medical Adviser went so far as to say ‘Research is of no use unless it gets to the people who need to use it’. So why is it something that often feels like a late addition to a research proposal?

Traditionally dissemination was something that happened at the end of a project and ideally comprising of several articles in peer-reviewed journals and perhaps a conference presentation or poster just depending where you were with your research career. Now things have dramatically changed, yes articles and presentations are still vitally important but dissemination has gone wider, it’s gone live and it’s gone social.

Nowadays if a project lasts 3 years then that’s three years of opportunities to engage with your audience, build your network and to foster your research reputation. Instead of just waiting on the long process to be published, raising awareness can be immediate and with social media, it’s opened up one way communication into a two way process with the people affected by your research being able to talk to you, ask questions and comment on your work. NIHR’s blog ‘What’s the research on promoting health research through social media?’ demonstrates how important this area of dissemination is becoming.

The focus of research is now more than ever about impact, influencing change through the awareness and uptake of ideas based on a solid ground of evidence. Your ideas are more likely to have that desired impact if you engage with your audience, network with influencers in your field and use novel ways to disseminate.

So how do you start to build your dissemination plan? Well firstly, you need to think about who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to achieve. Then make sure your plans are proportionate to the project you are undertaking and that you have costed dissemination into your bid. It pays to be unique and creative, you will stand out from the crowd and your research will attract attention. Pick the tools that suit your needs – blogging is a great way to take people with you on your research journey and it is a fantastic tool for both participant recruitment and retention. Research also shows that readership for individual blog posts far outstrips that of journal articles. If you’re interested in blogging take a look at The HARTS blog. Use twitter to amplify your reach, pointing users to your blog post/article or providing snippets of information about your project. Twitter also allows you to exchange ideas with researchers with similar interests and allows opportunities for networking and collaborations. #WeNurses Twitterchat is a great example of this in action. Short videos play into the hands of a population short on time and attracted to images (Be Part of Research Animation), whilst radio interviews can link into very different communities. Comics (Graphic Medicine) can be a great way to communicate with both children and young people as well as a way to address sensitive and difficult issues (The Weight of Expectation). Then finally, everyone likes a party, just think about who needs to be there to celebrate with you and help launch the results into practice.

Still need convincing to expand your dissemination horizons? Check out the research presented in Social media use in the research workflow to investigate the benefits of using different complementary channels for disseminating and discovering research.

What next? Well, take your time; pick what suits you, your team and your research area; make sure it’s appropriate, interesting and reaches those who need to know about your research; make use of your public involvement group for ideas and don't forget to ask your local RDS for help and guidance.

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