Contents - Previous - Next

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



Communication goals (obtaining and giving information

Mode for gathering information

Information data sources can use

Techniques for sharing information with sources

Communication budget (extra for communication)

Time required to schedule communication activities


gather data - have results in library and data banks

literature review, data bank search

topic of study, how to obtain results

discuss context of study, send reports/publications

reproduction, distribution data base entry



get study authorization - arrange feedback on results

interviews, notes

study related strategies

discussion, other reports, send report, feedback visits/discussions

reproduction, visit costs

added time for discussions and feedback visits


facilitate data gathering - inform of study's relevance

observation interviews at site, video at site

study objectives, how to obtain results

discuss study's goals, arrange for feedback (visit, report, video)

equipment costs, report and video reproduction, visit costs

added time for discussion, return visits schedule


facilitate data gathering, obtain data - explain study's relevance, present findings and implications to community

focus groups, interviews, video, informal structured activities

study related issues, current services issues informal education materials, village findings, overall study findings in context of actions

discussion backed by simple materials, handouts for community education, community level monitoring models, immediate discussion of findings, later visits with study implications for action

design and production of community materials, model and display costs, costs of materials for village presentation of results

added time during data gathering and for return community visits


obtain data - educate and provide information on study-related problems, later discuss results and implications

observation, focus groups, interviews, informal video

non-formal educational information related to study topic, implications of village-level findings, implications of overall findings

non-formal education materials, ecuational messages by research team, village-level discussion of implications of village data and methods, discussions on overall findings

cost of materials, design and reproduction, cost of researcher training in non-formal education, presentation materials and equipment

added 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 communication

Planned supporting techniques and materials

Planned equipment and materials needed for communication

Additional communication training needed

Additional budget for communication

Added time for communication


individual, group behaviour change, project participation

groups discussion of findings and implications

flip chart with printed results, blank chart for discussion, video

printed flip charts, blank flip charts, etc. video camcorder, TV

effective community communication use of video

materials production, video edit/copying

community level visits


improved service delivery, health education

presentation of report, discussion of implications and action

flip chart showing results, video of alternatives, discussion

camcorder, videocassette, flip chart

training on community level implication of results

equipment & personnel costs

centre visits or at regional gathering


better support to preventive health education

presentation of report, discussion of implications for community school

flip chart showing results, video of alternatives, discussion

camcorder, videocassette, flip chart

training on implication of results on schools

equipment, materials, personnel costs

centre visits or at regional gathering


increase project resources, assist with monitoring

formal presentation of report followed by discussion

written presentation, field notes, flip chart, field videos, photos

camcorder, report copies, video, photos, non-formal education materials

training on presentation techniques

equipment & personnel costs

1 /2 day per state or at national gathering


better IEC materials


video, slides, community notes on IEC materials

camcorder, flip chart, report copies

skills in IEC


based on future needs and IEC lessons learned


increased resources

presentation of report, discussion at conferences

transparencies, slides, video

camcorder, flip chart, copies, graphics

training on presentation techniques

personnel & equipment costs

presentation matched to policy/ decisions cycle

AUDIENCES (Users of data)

Research communication goals (examples only)

Planned mode for effective communication

Planned supporting techniques and materials

Planned equipment and materials needed for communication

Additional communication training needed

Additional budget for communication

Added time for communication


increase resources, help with advocacy

presentation of report, at meetings and conferences

transparencies, slides, video

vcr, copies

presentation techniques training

personnel & equipment

presentation matched to policy/ decision cycle


better methods, increased organizational and individual researcher credibility

publication, informal discussions, correspondence

results article, work-in-progress notice, methods article, field notes, video interviews


effective research report writing, identifying effective publications

editing, translation, correspondence costs

considerable for peer review articles, less time for informal piece


greater participation, better research agenda

course module based on study or method

module, video, case study, field notes, etc.

report, copies of video, notes etc.

effective teaching

personnel & equipment

length of module times number of presentations


better support for projects, behaviour change, participation

conference presentation, mass media interviews and articles

report, presentation, video, transparencies, slides, etc.

vcr, copies, overhead projector, display

presentation techniques

personnel & equipment

seminar 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.


1 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.



Video is a powerful tool. Distortion can be created because people are aware of being observed.


The researcher is the most obtrusive aspect of his research and he has the greatest potential to distort the normal life of the community. The key is the ability to establish trust and rapport. With the video, it is not necessary to set up a shot. One way to create comfort is to let the children play with the VCR. People must know that they are being recorded.


In Turkey, when teams went to rural areas with video cameras, their acceptance was dependent on the trust they wielded. Some researchers have a rapport and some do not. One important aspect of the new camcorders is that the researcher needs little technical training in their use.


How do we communicate with the community? What are the experiences of establishing a communications system?


We must make communication explicit. Additionally, RAP requires honesty and sensitivity to the pace of the community. We must feed back the results to the community. The VCR can be data from one community to another. It can also bring the discussion of policy-makers back down to the community. It should be a two-way communications link between mass-media and interpersonal.


There is an issue of cost. The VCR is effective but to what extent is it feasible?


Plans for purchase and use of the VCR and other equipment and supplies should be made explicit at the beginning planning stages. You can get 4 VCRs for the cost of one consultant's plane ticket. This is simply one tool. Explicit planning of all tools is needed.


The unobtrusiveness of the VCR is surprising but true. Is there an opportunity to get decision-makers into the field incognito via RAP? In India, it has been successful. There is a tendency to de-emphasize lateral communication. This should be rectified.


We need to plan. It is necessary to deal with the implicit in an explicit way.

Contents - Previous - Next