|Rapid Assessment Procedures: Qualitative Methodologies for Planning and Evaluation of Health Related Programmes (International Nutrition Foundation for Developing Countries - INFDC, 1992, 528 pages)|
|Section VI: Bringing RAP to the decision-making realm: Effective communication and use|
|38. Research communication for RAP: Planning for optimal use of communication opportunities throughout the research process and effective use of findings|
by Gary R. Gleason and Gerald
Gary R. Gleason and Gerald Hursh-César work at Intercultural Communication, Inc. where they continue to promote training in RAP and the application of Research Communication.
This paper is an initial attempt to define operationally what the authors are calling "Research Communication." They argue strongly that much of the research done in the service of social development does not feed effectively into the policy and programme decision making arenas where scarce resources are being allocated and technical choices made. Using lists, examples and charts, they build a case for training in and application of principles taken from communication and journalism to the research process. This paper reflects two presentations by its joint authors at the conference which generated numerous questions and interest. Research Communication has since been developed into a principel tool of the USAID-supported global project on "Data for Decision Making in Health." Research Communication has also been developed into a training module in a new workshop called "RAP+." The first RAP+ workshop was held in Brasov, Romania in March 1992 with support from the UNU and UNICEF. The workshop aimed at orienting a group of 21 participants in qualitative research, research communication and the need to set problem-based research agendas. - Eds.
IF WE APPLY the principles and practices of the communication field to social research can we improve the process and the effects of research?
This paper introduces the concept and techniques of "Research Communication." Research communication is, beginning at the earliest stages of project planning, the deliberate, systematic use of communication principles to improve the design, collection, dissemination, use, and continued use of social research data.
Overlaying principles from the communication field onto the research process at the design stage forces the research to include planned resources and activities aimed both at generating demand for the results and at effectively communicating the results to all relevant audiences.
Those who work in research communication planning have several operating assumptions:
1. Data don't stand alone: Better data are needed for better decisions. But data do not stand alone. Without the "bookends" of systematic planning at the beginning and appropriate presentation and dissemination at the end, data will not be used optimally. Moreover, once used, the data are still alive to be reconfigured, synthesized, or re-analyzed for other decision-making needs.
2. Know information needs: Though varied and complex, the information needs of decision-makers can be better understood. This better understanding will improve data-gathering priorities and methodologies, data analysis, the media and focus of data presentation, and the identification of present and potential users.
3. Data demand is unmet: There is an unmet demand for good research data. Decision-makers, at all levels in all sectors, want better data. Decision-makers themselves, through feedback on their uses of data, can influence and motivate the professional work of those involved in data gathering and processing.
4. Presentation improves relevance: The demand for and use of data are strongly related to the perceived link of the information to issues that users see as important. The relevance of information can be improved through greater simplicity, clarity, comprehensiveness, and timeliness of the information brought to decision-makers. Thus, how you say it is as important as what is said.
5. Data have many lives: A single set of data can have many lives and live in a variety of forms for many different users and uses. Changes in data use can be anticipated in a dissemination plan that targets a widening audience of users in formal and informal health channels. The concept of data users is dynamic, not static. They move health-related information upward, laterally, and downward inside and outside of the sponsoring organization in the form of speeches, press releases, memos, books, articles, videotapes, audio-cassettes, exhibits, conferences, workshops, staff meetings, photographs, flip charts, and other forms.
6. Tell how and why: Better information is needed at all points along the development continuum - from the strategies of project design in high government agencies to the tactics of eliciting community support at the end of the chain. "Better" information is that which emphasizes the questions of "why" and "how" as well as the questions of "what" and "how many."
In this present volume, research communication aims specifically at improving the demand for better data in the health decision-making process to bring about changes that produce more efficient and effective health policy, implementation, and benefits.
Of course, social change occurs in the context of social systems. Accordingly, an appropriate change-strategy should be supported with a systemic information approach. Thus, at the earliest stage of research planning and budgeting, research communication is the deliberate, appropriate allocation of resources to improve information-getting, information-using, information-sharing, and information-response. It is a strategy designed to reveal and to strengthen the interrelationships among the many uses and users of a given data set and, in the process, to strengthen the links to other data sets.