Researchers as Content Creators

by Swad Komanduri

Policy research communication often relies on written reports or client calls as the default methods for getting important information to key policymakers. While these are tried-and-tested methods for communicating research, each is imperfect in its own way. Written reports tend to be a great way to document methodological or technical details but often impose a time cost on readers to distill and understand the key takeaways. On the other hand, client calls provide real-time interaction with live feedback, allowing the researchers to emphasize key points, but can be inefficient to communicate technical details, especially in the absence of any visual aids. With the COVID pandemic normalizing remote work, digital environments are playing a more dominant role as mediums for professional information sharing. In theory, this should provide a space of opportunity to potentially develop new norms and behaviors around research communication that increase efficiencies between researchers and their audience.

In reality, these changes have largely proven to be detrimental for advancing scientific communication. Changes in the information system are considered a leading driver of declining trust in institutions. The effects of these changes are compounded by an educational system that is unable to keep up with these changes, as with learning loss due to remote schooling. The attention economy has created titanic institutions analyzing millisecond level differences in digital interaction. The halcyon days of policymakers spending hours poring over research reports are long gone (if they ever existed), and in the absence of new norms of scientific communication, misinformation and disinformation will have free reign.

These dynamics pose a challenge to the research community. High-quality research has always been difficult to communicate, but the premium on human time and attention is higher than it has ever been. Continuing to rely on traditional methods of communication risks muting important findings and accelerating truth decay. To combat this, researchers must start becoming content creators. Whether it is as podcasters, YouTubers, filmmakers, musicians, Twitter personalities, bloggers, or influencers, we must find ways to make the ivory tower more accessible.

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