As long as I have worked for the Panos Relay programme we have been asked to share practical tips on communicating research to a wider audience. While many donors and research communication practitioners advocate the need to communicate research (see Relay’s Reporting research: using evidence for effective journalism for more information) there is little practical information in how to write or produce news stories and features. In response, Panos Relay will be producing a series of blog posts in order to share the experiences of Relay, our partners and other organisations on various aspects of communicating research.
I started at Panos Relay working as a journalist producing the Relay Research Spotlight – a weekly feature which explored development research findings. As a journalist interested in development issues, writing the Relay Research Spotlight features was fantastic experience. The features were 500-words long, accompanied by a 100 word bulletin, based on academic research on development issues. However, I found that writing about research was not always straightforward. In fact, I found it challenging and daunting at times!
Academic research papers on development issues, such as a UN reports on HIV and AIDS, as well as academic institution reports on climate change variability, can be quite intimidating. One of the main reasons is that there is a certain quota of academic language that most of us are unfamiliar with. However, once you strip the jargon away, research on development issues can conceal a mine of newsworthy and topical information.
Finding the research is the first step. But even when I found a topic to write about, I found accessing the original research papers could be problematic. A considerable amount of research remains tucked away from the public and media, and that means accessing these studies can be quite difficult, especially for those working in the media in developing countries. As a result, I have produced a guide based on my experiences for journalists, editors and research communication staff interested in communicating research through the media. It includes tips and advice on:
- Using research in your articles
- Finding and interpreting research
- Interviewing researchers
- Writing news articles using research findings
- Top 10 tips for successful articles
This guide, A journalist’s guide to reporting research, is based on my experiences on writing features on research and it would be great to hear from you about your experiences as well. If you have any comments or suggestions for topics to be covered in future blogs, please get in touch!