Enhancing impact:

research design and dissemination

 

In spite of substantial financial investments in research, relatively little attention is paid by many research organizations to communicating results to broad audiences, particularly local stakeholders. By failing to communicate research results beyond elite audiences, research organizations may miss significant opportunities to increase their impact and contribute to solving concrete social and environmental problems.

Systemic problems in institutional structure and reward systems which inhibit the sharing of knowledge between researchers and local people include:

  • Strong institutional disincentives to sharing knowledge between researchers and local people;
  • Reward systems which evaluate researchers' progress based on numbers of papers published, not on the actual field impact or accountability to local partners;
  • Scientists are trained to communicate with other scientists, not with the public; and,
  • Broader communication of results and educational endeavors are discouraged and devalued by the scientific community.

PPI, working with CIFOR, applied a survey among researchers and academics to better understand the institutional obstacles and disincentives to knowledge exchange and returning results within research institutions and academia. In addition, PPI has collected lessons learned from a range of practitioners and researchers in Asia, Africa and Latin America who are challenging conventional processes and are undertaking research with and for local communities.

The survey addressed researcher and institutional practices in dissemination of research results to discern points of tension and leverage points for constructive change. Partners involved in the survey included: The Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme for South and Southeast Asia (PFNM/EP), the Center for Tropical Research in Mexico (CITRO), Mulheres da Mata (Women of the Forest) project in Brazil, and CIFOR's regional offices in Africa (Cameroon, Zambia, Burkina Faso). The Knowledge Exchange Survey was applied in eight countries from three regions: Africa, Asia, and the Americas. An analysis of this survey is synthesized in the article, Out of the loop: Why research rarely reaches policy makers and the public – and what can be done, published in Biotropica.