Communicating Research


A few days ago a colleague asked me a question about how business schools get their research ‘out there’. How do business schools reach beyond the boundaries of academia to communicate with business people and professionals who have neither the time (nor perhaps the inclination) to plough their way through academic journals or books? The question is more complex than it might first seem.

Added on 18 June 2014 by Rebecca Coatswith

Communicating Research

For academics and their institutions research publications are linked to academic reputation and standing – both personal and professional. Competition to be published in ‘the best’ journals is fierce and brings with it an enhanced kudos and status that is otherwise difficult to achieve. In many institutions research publications are also linked to salary tenure and promotion.

Yet whilst these journals are important to academics and institutions some suggest that they lack practical relevance in the real world and are seldom read by senior executives who instead are looking for bite sized chunks of the latest learning which can be easily assimilated into daily practice.

The plethora of communication channels is now truly dizzying running the full gamut from the specialist subscription only peer reviewed academic journals to the less formal (and some might argue more accessible) blog posts tweets and podcasts. It’s not just individuals that are expected to become masters of communication but organisations too as they vie for attention on social media platforms as well as traditional broadcast and print based mediums.

For organisations the challenge is to develop robust and trustworthy research that can be widely disseminated through information channels which speak directly to current and potential customers and which also maintain the essence and integrity of research that’s often taken months or years to complete. Research that is poorly communicated or found to be unreliable is hazardous to the reputations of organisations and individuals alike.

For researchers – certainly those based in business schools – research has to be grounded in the everyday challenges faced by businesses and their leaders and it has to answer the ‘so what?’ question. I’ve met some researchers who driven by their deep personal motivation and fascination for their subject have seemed surprised that their interests are not shared by the world at large! If your audience doesn’t care about your subject if they read your article and think ‘so what’ then your research won’t hit its mark.

So returning to my colleague’s question business schools have a challenge to meet.

  • Business schools need to develop and maintain robust communication channels – internally as well as externally – and ensure that their research agenda matches the needs of their clients
  • Research needs to be truly embedded in the work of business schools underpinning classroom content and delivery methods (because communication isn’t just virtual!)
  • Outputs need to be many and varied to suit both the audience and communication channel. Current models of academic publishing that serve to protect and privilege academics are far from dead but to reach out to new audiences research has to be communicated in a way that’s physically and intellectually accessible to all.

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