Research communications training

Last Updated on January 18, 2023

Training in research communication planning
Application of research communication depends on a working relationship between those who fund or plan to use the data and research results and those who design information systems, research studies, and data gathering.

These Research Communication Planning Overlays provide examples of how planning might be done. A study evaluating a generalized health intervention at community level is used. The planning process includes projecting possible audiences from among those for whom the study will gather information (sources) and those who might use the study’s findings. During the planning process, consideration should be given to effective forms and techniques which will best present useful information and generate use by each source and audience segment. To promote the effective communication of data, these matrices can also be used to assess needs for equipment, materials, training, resources and time requirements for effective research communication.

Overlay 2. Research Communication Planning


DATA SOURCES AS AUDIENCESCommunication goals (obtaining and giving informationMode for gathering informationInformation data sources can useTechniques for sharing information with sourcesCommunication budget (extra for communication)Time required to schedule communication activities
LIBRARIANS/ DATA SPECIALISTSgather data – have results in library and data banksliterature review, data bank searchtopic of study, how to obtain resultsdiscuss context of study, send reports/publicationsreproduction, distribution data base entryminimal
STATE LEVEL OFFICESget study authorization – arrange feedback on resultsinterviews, notesstudy related strategiesdiscussion, other reports, send report, feedback visits/discussionsreproduction, visit costsadded time for discussions and feedback visits
OFFICERS AT PROJECT SITESfacilitate data gathering – inform of study’s relevanceobservation interviews at site, video at sitestudy objectives, how to obtain resultsdiscuss study’s goals, arrange for feedback (visit, report, video)equipment costs, report and video reproduction, visit costsadded time for discussion, return visits schedule
COMMUNITY LEVEL LEADERSfacilitate data gathering, obtain data – explain study’s relevance, present findings and implications to communityfocus groups, interviews, video, informal structured activitiesstudy related issues, current services issues informal education materials, village findings, overall study findings in context of actionsdiscussion backed by simple materials, handouts for community education, community level monitoring models, immediate discussion of findings, later visits with study implications for actiondesign and production of community materials, model and display costs, costs of materials for village presentation of resultsadded time during data gathering and for return community visits
COMMUNITY MEN, WOMEN, CHILDRENobtain data – educate and provide information on study-related problems, later discuss results and implicationsobservation, focus groups, interviews, informal videonon-formal educational information related to study topic, implications of village-level findings, implications of overall findingsnon-formal education materials, ecuational messages by research team, village-level discussion of implications of village data and methods, discussions on overall findingscost of materials, design and reproduction, cost of researcher training in non-formal education, presentation materials and equipmentadded time for educational materials before data gathering, added time during data gathering, feedback/implications visits

Overlay 3. Research Communication Planning


AUDIENCES (Users of data)Research communication goals (examples only)Planned mode for effective communicationPlanned supporting techniques and materialsPlanned equipment and materials needed for communicationAdditional communication training neededAdditional budget for communicationAdded time for communication
COMMUNITY FAMILIES INDIVIDUALSindividual, group behaviour change, project participationgroups discussion of findings and implicationsflip chart with printed results, blank chart for discussion, videoprinted flip charts, blank flip charts, etc. video camcorder, TVeffective community communication use of videomaterials production, video edit/copyingcommunity level visits
HEALTH CENTRES STAFFimproved service delivery, health educationpresentation of report, discussion of implications and actionflip chart showing results, video of alternatives, discussioncamcorder, videocassette, flip charttraining on community level implication of resultsequipment & personnel costscentre visits or at regional gathering
COMMUNITY TEACHERSbetter support to preventive health educationpresentation of report, discussion of implications for community schoolflip chart showing results, video of alternatives, discussioncamcorder, videocassette, flip charttraining on implication of results on schoolsequipment, materials, personnel costscentre visits or at regional gathering
STATE HEALTH AND EDUCATION OFFICIALSincrease project resources, assist with monitoringformal presentation of report followed by discussionwritten presentation, field notes, flip chart, field videos, photoscamcorder, report copies, video, photos, non-formal education materialstraining on presentation techniquesequipment & personnel costs1 /2 day per state or at national gathering
IEC MATERIALS PRODUCERSbetter IEC materialsdiscussionsvideo, slides, community notes on IEC materialscamcorder, flip chart, report copiesskills in IECminimalbased on future needs and IEC lessons learned
NATIONAL DONORSincreased resourcespresentation of report, discussion at conferencestransparencies, slides, videocamcorder, flip chart, copies, graphicstraining on presentation techniquespersonnel & equipment costspresentation matched to policy/ decisions cycle
AUDIENCES (Users of data)Research communication goals (examples only)Planned mode for effective communicationPlanned supporting techniques and materialsPlanned equipment and materials needed for communicationAdditional communication training neededAdditional budget for communicationAdded time for communication
EXTERNAL DONORSincrease resources, help with advocacypresentation of report, at meetings and conferencestransparencies, slides, videovcr, copiespresentation techniques trainingpersonnel & equipmentpresentation matched to policy/ decision cycle
RESEARCH COMMUNITYbetter methods, increased organizational and individual researcher credibilitypublication, informal discussions, correspondenceresults article, work-in-progress notice, methods article, field notes, video interviewsminimaleffective research report writing, identifying effective publicationsediting, translation, correspondence costsconsiderable for peer review articles, less time for informal piece
UNIVERSITIESgreater participation, better research agendacourse module based on study or methodmodule, video, case study, field notes,, copies of video, notes etc.effective teachingpersonnel & equipmentlength of module times number of presentations
PUBLIC(S)better support for projects, behaviour change, participationconference presentation, mass media interviews and articlesreport, presentation, video, transparencies, slides, etc.vcr, copies, overhead projector, displaypresentation techniquespersonnel & equipmentseminar schedule, multi-day exhibition/ conference

Matrices such as these are used in training. But they also can show that research communication planning provides a model for training and dissemination and simultaneously identifies and addresses decisions in planning data gathering and other steps of the research cycle. Such decisions can be weighted to set priorities for effective communication with particular decision-making audiences such as programme managers or policy makers. Priority could also be given to providing feedback to those who can improve other parts of the research system. Thus, an initial focus on decision makers can lead to similar tools being used to provide other researchers with better information on the data collection methods used.

Such analysis allows planning for each information source and audience regarding:

COMMUNICATION MODE. Which are the best methods of collecting (efficiency) and of presenting (effectiveness) the needed information?

TECHNIQUES. Which are the most appropriate communication techniques for recording and for conveying the information to each audience?

SUPPORT. For recording and for presenting the information, what types of trained personnel will be needed and what equipment, supplies, materials, and maintenance will be needed?

PRESENTATION/DISSEMINATION. Training What kinds of communication training will be needed? How long will the training take and how much will it cost?

COSTS. What is the cost of a complete or partial research communication overlay? If only partial communication planning is attempted, what are the priority sources/audiences and related communication concerns?

TIMING. Will adding a specific research communication component affect the overall timing of a study? Are there deadlines or existing schedules that need to be taken into consideration for the study results to have maximum impact on decisions?

This planning should normally be done in collaboration with those who are trying to improve forms and flows of data moving upward and outward. It provides a flexible plan for which changes are to be expected as the data-gathering and data-use process is monitored.

The goal of research communication training both for those who make decisions on research plans and for those who do data gathering is to help them recognize the value of overlaying a strategic communication framework on their activities and requests. This will help reduce ad hoc decisions on communication at critical points in the data gathering and presentation process. In addition, the use of matrices results in a more systematic approach to efforts to improve the effective use of research by looking at the appropriateness of data for different audiences arrayed along the data-use continuum from decision-maker to beneficiary.

Evaluating research communication

As research communication is an innovation for many health programme directors, we need to begin systematic evaluation and documentation of its benefits. For example, as planned for the USAID Data for Decision-Making Project,7 those evaluating the contribution of research communication as a tool for improving the use of data should ask questions of their colleagues and country health officials such as these:

• How, if at all, did research communication planning benefit your work?

• In what ways should the research communication plan be improved to be more systematic and thorough, thus more useful to you?

• How can the research communication plan be improved so that you can have greater impact on decisions concerning policy development and project planning?

• How can the plan be improved to increase the relevance and usefulness of what you learn from the communities in which you work?

• How can the plan help you be better at involving the communities you serve and informing them of things you learned from and about them?

• How can the plan be improved so that you can be more effective with your donors and funders?

• How can the plan be improved to help you to communicate your methodological developments more effectively to your professional colleagues?

Such questions should be asked at the stage when RAPs and other studies are being planned. Basic research communication principles and techniques should be used as a framework for developing answers. If this is done the cost effectiveness of most investigations is almost guaranteed to improve.


Research communication provides a communication-focused analysis at the earliest stages of research planning. The analysis identifies communication-related gaps in areas such as training design, audience identification, decision-maker/community linkage, timing, potential use of media, and presentation formats, as well as techniques for decision-makers to motivate those who collect, analyze, and present data to better meet their needs.

We submit that, through training in research communication planning, those who fund, carry out, and use research data will be better served. In addition, with more systematic consideration of the optimal use of research, most methodologies such as RAP will improve.

Correspondence: Intercultural Communication, Inc., 2400 Virginia Ave., NW, Suite C103, Washington, DC.


UNICEF Country Programme: Afghanistan, New Delhi: South Central Asia Regional Office (SCARO, 1973.

2 Intercultural Communication, Inc., The Context for Using Rapid, Low-Cost Methods for Monitoring and Evaluating Health Services Delivery, Washington, D.C., November 1986, pp. 11-24 (for A.I.D. Centre for Development Information and Evaluation.

3 Intercultural Communication, Inc., UNICEF KAP Studies, New York: UNICEF Office of Evaluation and Office of Programme Communication, September 1988, p. 3

4 Intercultural Communication, Inc., UNICEF KAP Studies, New York: UNICEF Office of Evaluation and Office of Programme Communication, September 1988, p. 24.

5 Intercultural Communication, Inc., UNICEF KAP Studies, New York: UNICEF Office of Evaluation and Office of Programme Communication, September 1988, p. 23.

6 Materials available from Education Development Center, Learn Tech: Learning Technologies for Basic Education, Newton, Massachusetts, 1991.

7 Harvard University School of Public Health,. Data For Decision-Making for Health, project proposal to the U.S. Agency for International Development (A.I.D., Boston, Massachusetts: August 1991.

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