Many researchers hope that their research will have some impact on policy. Research can impact policy directly: A policymaker uses the results of your study in making a policy decision. For direct policy impact, policymakers – or the people who advise them or the people who vote for them – have to know about your work. Research can also impact policy indirectly: Your research becomes part of a body of evidence which collectively affects future policy decisions. For indirect policy impact, other researchers have to know about your work. It is unlikely that your research will impact policy either directly or indirectly if no one knows about it.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with many ways of increasing consumption of research (together with colleagues and co-authors), and I’ve seen many other ways. Here is a menu of ten options. The point isn’t to do all of these, but rather to select those that will help you reach the audience you most want to impact.
Before the ten tools, here’s an underlying strategy, crucial for all of these tools:
Distill your message into two or three bullet points.
I get it. Your message is nuanced. But if it’s impossible to explain the take-away with brevity, the chances you’ll be able to communicate it effectively to people outside your field are very low. The chances that anyone will remember are even lower.
Even longer communication forms, like blog posts or policy briefs, work best when they can be boiled down to a few quick points. Sometimes those points are different for different audiences. In recent research I did with Mũthoni Ngatia, we had two big messages, one about long-term impacts of education interventions, and one about school uniform policy. We wrote two separate blog posts, each focusing on one of those messages. But in both cases, we distilled the findings to a couple of sound bites (er, word bites) we wanted readers to take away.
And now, 10 tools I’ve experimented with to increase consumption of research!