Communicating bodies of evidence: what works?
I am delighted to introduce Campbell UK & Ireland’s series on ‘Communicating Bodies of Evidence’. In creating this series we collaborated with Jonathan Breckon, Visiting Fellow, Campbell Collaboration UK and Ireland, who conceived and curated the webinars and podcasts you will find links to below. Our intention was to engage with experts in the area of communicating evidence, drawing from different disciplines to generate insights that we can use every day to have more impactful conversations about our research. I have learned so much from all our contributors, and want to thank each one of them, sincerely, for the time they have taken to share their experiences, knowledge, and practical advice with us. A very special thank you of course, goes to Jonathan for leading and implementing this important project.
Professor Sarah Miller
Director, Campbell UK & Ireland
There is a vast amount of guides, toolkits and training on how to communicate, mobilise, and use research for policy and practice. But how much of this is evidence-based? If we want to ‘walk the talk’ and be evidence-informed about evidence-informed practice, what can we learn from across the breadth of academic disciplines on evidence-use?
Although I am a social scientist by background - I have worked in knowledge mobilisation and research in design, humanities, geography, and some science and engineering disciplines, and I they have a rich offering when thinking about research use. I was keen to tap into this breadth of knowledge and bring in some fascinating scholars and practitioners in this series of podcasts and seminars for Campbell Collaboration UK and Ireland.
What was the motivation behind this? A driving forces was the fact that too often we work in silos - and don't learn from outside our own subjects. The aim of this 2022 Campbell Collaboration UK and Ireland seminar and podcast series is to look across the boundaries and see what actionable insights we may gather from all sorts of subjects and experts to help us think about the effective communication of research synthesis. There is much we can gain from across the social and political sciences, the arts and humanities, or other disciplines.
Evidence rarely speaks for itself. Proactive communication and other strategies are usually needed to mobilise bodies of knowledge. But what are the best strategies and techniques to do this?
This webinar seeks to share practical insights from the social sciences and policymaking about communicating and implementing bodies of research - such as systematic reviews and other syntheses.
The speakers are:
Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford
This webinar is the second in a series that seeks to develop our understanding of what we can learn from the social and behavioral sciences about the best ways to communicate and apply research synthesis.
The speakers are:
- Intro, Chair - Jonathan Breckon, Visiting Fellow, Campbell Collaboration UK & Ireland
- Mario Scharfbillig, Science Policy Adviser, Joint Research Centre, European Commission & lead author of Values and Identities - a policymaker’s guide on 'Getting into the heads of policymakers: understanding values and identities'
- Moira O’Neill, Senior Vice President, Research Interpretation, FrameWorks Institute, US on 'How framing and metaphors can communicate research for social change'
- Itzhak Yanovitzy Professor of Communication, Rutgers University, US on 'Using concepts from psychology and behavioural research to guide evidence-use'
Nibedita discusses the importance of thinking about the need for rapid answers to policy-makers questions, having banks of synthesis at the ready, and the importance of using the breadth of social science so that we move beyond a “...scientific positivist perspective [of systematic reviews] that claim ‘we have the answer’”. Nibedita also discusses her experience of using Delphi panels to help implement the results of research, and how they can ‘take away that social bias and really help in bringing out the more nuanced opinion. And by going through the iterative processes [of a Delphi panel], it's often possible to gain consensus even when the starting points were vastly different’.
Joe discusses the value of design thinking for communicating research synthesis - ‘how theory can meet reality’ - including using co-production, prototyping, visualisation, design games, and different types of research synthesis such as realist reviews. He also stresses how communication of research synthesis is not enough to mobilise it: “academics have made some massive assumptions that issues with communication on the ’reception’ side are because the issues are beyond people; too complex for them to understand and so move to ‘plain English’ or almost ‘dumbing down’ but there are two things that I think they forget: people don’t need it dumbed down - they need it in a form that enables them to make sense of it (in the same what the the researchers went through a sense making process - so too do researcher consumers). Secondly, even then, it has to be something that is perceived to be of value”.
Andy - who has sat on may government and other scientific advisory panels - discusses how we need how to confront ‘how science can be more rigorous about how power shapes truth’ It's just saying it's okay to talk about it. In fact, more than okay, it's essential to a democracy that science be more open about how the answer you get from science can depend on the question.” We should be more open to communicating uncertainty to Ministers and public, and not ‘airbursh the uncertainties of science’ or simplistic ‘elevator pitches’ of their research summary findings. It does not serve society, for science to give simplistic answers to help politicians and ‘carry the can if something goes wrong’ and we need to keep it complex.