In a blog post that we published on February 2 2012 we announced that the full report of the Research in Librarianship Impact Evaluation Study (RiLIES1) was available to download, and that we would be blogging highlights of the report over the coming weeks. This is the second of the RiLIES1 highlights postings. Here we present dissemination strategies for impact.
The full RiLIES1 report makes four recommendations related to the dissemination strategies for impact. Here we consider these recommendations with reference to the literature reviewed for RiLIES1 and the outcomes of our empirical work.
1. Develop dissemination strategies that align with how and where practitioners access new information
We confirmed that if practitioners are involved throughout the lifespan of a research project, including helping to determine its scope and design, they are more likely to be aware of, and use, its outputs. Otherwise, face-to-face communication is the most popular way for practitioners to first hear about research that may be relevant to their practice. This is achieved both formally by attending events such as conferences, as well as through informal discussions. It will probably not come as a surprise to most to learn that practitioners have limited interest in peer-reviewed, academic papers.
2. Create and embed research outputs that support the use of research results
Our case studies demonstrated the benefits of creating usable artefacts – such as toolkits, training materials – and a sustainable community of practice (CoP) to support practitioners in the implementation of research findings. However, researchers need to be aware that it can take a lot of work to make a CoP sustainable, and such efforts need to continue beyond the funded period of the project.
3. Include teaching and community support materials in project plans
We found projects which were able to take advantage of additional funding to develop teaching and community support materials based on their project findings maintained a long-term impact.
4. Make research output accessible
Our literature review uncovered a line of argument across several publications that practitioners believe that research output is presented in a way that is difficult to understand. This is the “academic discourse” problem. Researchers should be encouraged to publish reports with clear lists of recommendations (and not “findings that speak for themselves”), in accessible language. Such reports should be written up in addition to any academic papers that researchers may choose to publish. A second issue that is well-recognised is information overload. Difficulties related to academic discourse and information overload can be addressed through the “translation” of research, i.e. making details relevant to practitioners available in sources that they use routinely, as well as relaying research findings in environments where people meet face-to-face, such as at conferences.
On a number of occasions participants consulted in the RiLIES project referred to the need for easily accessible research summaries. Many also regretted that they had only limited access to the research literature. This finding is important because research summaries are available, there are a number of open access repositories of LIS research already in existence, and anyone who is a CILIP member already also has access to a wide range of research resources (see, for example, the resources listed on the LIS Research Coalition’s Links pages). Here lies an opportunity for those with responsibility for freely available open access repositories of LIS research materials to raise awareness of their resources amongst the practitioner communities.
Our next RiLIES1 report highlights post will consider the role of social media in enhancing the impact of research projects.
To read further details of the study please see the full RiLIES1 report, freely available to download.