Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Helping researchers to be better communicators

Turn your thinking upside down was the advice to a group of Asian agricultural researchers who took part in a training program to become better communicators in Chiang Mai, Thailand, last week.

“Scientists start with an introduction, then their method, results, and finally outcomes and conclusions,” said trainer Jenni Metcalfe of E-Connect. “But when writing for the media, or even in a policy document, put your key messages up front to capture people’s interest.”

Eighteen people from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines attended the six day Master Class in on Communicating Research to Stakeholders organised by the Crawford Fund at Chiang Mai University.

Dr Chiranjeevi Tallapragada, Chief Economist, Livelihoods and natural resource managment Institute, who is working on an ACIAR climate change adaption project in India (M.Gyles)

By the end of the Master Class, the researchers had developed communication plans and action plans for their research/program. They had written a range of products, beginning with a fact sheet, from which they developed media releases, summaries, policy briefs etc.

They’d had contact with journalists who had explained how they work and interviewed them. It was an eye opener for many who hadn’t realised how busy journalists are, and the broad range of topics they cover.

"A lot of developing country scientists work in agencies that have limited communications staff, so the idea was to boost the capability of research institutions to communicate their work," said Cathy Reade of the Crawford Fund who organised the program.

All participants said they found the Master Class valuable. Over half said they would be passing on what they had learned to others in their agencies. Many recognised the value it would provide younger researchers.

"The recorded interviews are really useful. They remind me of the work I need to do for improving my communication skills. I found the activities quite useful in showing our strengths and weaknesses," said particpant Dr Chiranjeevi Tallapragada (pictured).

ACIAR was one of the sponsors and supported six research collaborators from Pakistan, Vietnam and India to take part in the Master Class.

Mandy Gyles, ACIAR Public Affairs Officer
Note that Mandy Gyles also presented information as part of the Master Class

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