Creating impact from your research means contributing to changes in the world beyond academia. For example, your research might indicate the case for a new intervention that could help improve healthcare services in some way, or you may be working on an evidence base that shows that certain behavioural changes will reduce disease risks or improve population health.
This guide ‘Generating Impact from your Work‘, by Oliver Francis, for the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, is a useful introduction, explaining why impact matters so much and how you can plan in processes to enable impact as you carry out your research.
Effective communications are a critical tool for generating impact, so here is a Step by Step quick guide to communicating your research.
1. Who do you need to connect with?
2. What is your message?
3. If you just do one thing…
4. Resources at the PCU
5. University and campus resources
You might want to refer this Communications strategy template, put together to help you develop and share your comms strategy with colleagues and to prompt you to consider some of the most important factors and actions that will help you to communicate effectively.
1. Who do you need to connect with?
Who do you need to communicate with as you design, carry out and disseminate your research? [your ‘stakeholders’]
Identify named people in the organisations that might act on your messages, or who have an interest in exchanging learning with you. You might need to reach two named people working on your topic in Whitehall or you might want to explore the case for all GPs in England to alter a practice, say, an action related to early diagnosis of a certain cancer.
Stakeholder mapping is the process of identifying the people who might do something differently if they know and understand your work and who you need to learn from. Check in with Lucy Lloyd (the Unit’s Communications Manager) to get help mapping your stakeholders and reaching them. It often helps to consider your stakeholders using a matrix to sort them into priority groups. You could assess their power and influence to deliver what you want, the level of interest they have in your topic and the effort required to reach them.
Research groups and PIs will have well developed relationships with key stakeholders and the Primary Care Unit has access to large networks and named contacts across the University, CUHP, the region and our national clinical and policy partners, to help us connect.
Rule of no surprises: work with your PI and keep in touch with your funder, noting any requirements they have for communications
2. What is your message?
Explain your research briefly, tailored for your target audience.
Varying messages for specific groups are often needed – so material for clinicians will need emphasis and language that is different from material for the general public. Start by assessing why they might be interested. Is this work going to help them address a problem they have? Try checking you are covering the following key questions:
WHAT did you find out? your findings.
WHY this research matters? a straightforward explanation of why you selected your research question and the context in which you are working.
HOW did you answer your research question? a simple description of your method, in lay terms, noting important limitations.
Section in redevelopment: Finding and working with the most efficient and effective communication channels. July 2019
Section in redevelopment: Recording communications and impact-related work; Evaluating outreach and communications.
3. If you just do one thing…tell people when you publish
So you’ve had your journal article accepted – congratulations!
But remember….most people (even experts) don’t read academic journals. So don’t miss this milestone – it’s an opportunity to communicate your research outside the academic community as well as to drive readership and citations amongst academics. You’ll maximise your chances to deliver impact by raising your reputation for expertise in your field. Overall, you’ll be responding to funder and ultimately taxpayer expectations that research should have purpose and deliver improvements in the world we all live in.
You don’t need to go it alone! Always work with your Communications Manager (Lucy Lloyd), and your PI and follow funder guidance on communications. Make sure you prepare announcements before your article sees the light of day and is made public by the journals.
Here are some simple steps to start you on your communications journey!
Step One: Decide on your communications goals and your key messages. Often the first step is to create an announcement or blog post or a visual abstract (see this primer 2019). There are lots of examples of past PCU announcements here. Contact Lucy Lloyd to discuss your communications goals, messages and your target audiences. If your announcement might be of broad public interest, we’ll consider a media release and potentially a University media statement, which will help you reach larger audiences and members of the public and build your reputation as an expert in your field.
Step Two: Select appropriate dissemination channels for your audiences. Twitter is often a good place to start. You can prepare a tweet schedule over several days – and use the PCU twitter handle @pcu_cambridge so we can retweet for you.
Step Three: Email your lay summary or news announcement with the link to your publication to named contacts or networks.
4. Resources at the PCU
The Unit’s Communications Manager, Lucy Lloyd, can help you put together a communications plan, work with you on key messages, help you identify and reach stakeholders and help to find the best communication channels for your material.
Patient and Public Involvement (PPI)
Public involvement in research is when the research is carried out with or by members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’, or ‘for’ them.
Check out the Unit’s Patient and Public Involvement webpage for PPI contacts and ideas.
Public engagement (PPE)
PPI is distinct from public engagement where we raise awareness of research, share knowledge and create a dialogue with the public. See the University’s Public Engagement page for ideas and events that may help you if you’re looking to set up activities to engage with non academic audiences.
Is it news?
PCU research findings are frequently described in University news statements and covered in regional, national and international media. We propose some of our upcoming research news stories to the University’s Head of Research Communications, Craig Brierley, depending on their news value and significance. Get in touch early – well before publishing – if your research may have news value and you’d like to propose it for a press statement. Make sure you consult with your PI if you plan to take this route.
We have a bank of images at the Unit, which all staff can use, taken for us by Dr Jon Ferdinand of patients and healthcare practitioners, with consent for use to illustrate research or teaching. Try https://pixabay.com/and http://search.creativecommons.org/ for free images on other topics. Any queries about finding images – get in touch.
Need new webpages?
If you need a new web page or website for your project, please get in touch. We will need to work out where the new pages should sit in the PCU site and the best structure for your new sub site. All new pages or sub-sites should be fitted into the PCU’s existing site structure but if you’re developing a project with external collaborators or for very specific audiences, you may need to set up your site with a different ‘look and feel’ or theme. We have free access to premium WordPress templates, purchased by the Clinical School – see the template options here – if you need them.
6. University Resources
Cambridge Institute of Public Health – publishes features online and can help to promote your work across the Institute, the Clinical School and CUHP.
PublicHealth@Cambridge Network connects over 900 researchers in public health across all six schools at the University of Cambridge and can highlight your work online and identify potential collaborators. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Centre for Science and Policy (CSAP) helps connect researchers with policy professionals, experts in the sciences and engineering and business leaders.
The School of Clinical Medicine’s Office for Translational Research supports investigators to translate findings from their research into interventions, therapeutics and diagnostics that will improve human health.
Cambridge Enterprise works with members of the University to help them commercialise their research and provide consultancy services to industry.
Last updated July 2019. Developed by Lucy Lloyd, PCU Communications Manager