Communicating health research (23) Q1. What do we mean by Effective communication of health research? (6)

7 September, 2022

Thanks for pushing this discussion forward, Neil.

I think the definition you provide needs unpacking a bit: "Effective communication: From a researcher point of view, this means that their research is considered by policymakers where appropriate. This implies that it is visible, accessible, clear and readily understandable, that it is seen by policymakers as relevant and reliable, and that it is in a format that meets the perceived needs of policymakers."

This seems to suggest that the only purpose for communicating research is to be "considered appropriate" by policymakers. But this is far from the whole story. Health research is carried out in distinctly different institution and undere a range of circumstances and conditions.

For example, the research carried out by academics in a university setting needs to convince the academic hierarchy that it is/was worth doing - you won't get your PhD without that trusted communication tool, the thesis, and you won't get tenure or Professorship without a strong publications (= effective communications) record.

Equally, research funded by a government or other source will need to communicate effectively with the funding source - not necessarily at the policymaking level. So the funder's priorities come into play. In the UK, research funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) is often funded so as to improve the educational establishment itself - to set up or strengthen new research capabilities and units, to train staff, etc. - which is not exactly policymaking.

Commercially funded health research usually has product-related goals. As in the other examples above, policymaking and policymakers don't enter into it.

So the definition of "effective communication" for health researchers proposed seems too narrow. A more accurate definition could be something like, "From a researcher point of view, this means that their research is considered as appropriate by the relevant target audiences, including funders, academic authorities and policymakers, among others. In all cases, research communications should be visible, accessible, clear and readily understandable. Effective research communications for policymakers should be in a format that meets their perceived needs, and should be seen as relevant and reliable."

Chris Zielinski

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HIFA profile: Chris Zielinski: As a Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at the Centre for Global Health, University of Winchester, Chris leads the Partnerships in Health Information (Phi) programme, which supports knowledge development and brokers healthcare information exchanges of all kinds. He is the elected Vice President (and President-in-Waiting) of the World Association of Medical Editors. Chris has held senior positions in publishing and knowledge management with WHO in Brazzaville, Geneva, Cairo and New Delhi, with FAO in Rome, ILO in Geneva, and UNIDO in Vienna. He served on WHO's Ethical Review Committee, and was an originator of the African Health Observatory. He also spent three years in London as Chief Executive of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society. Chris has been a director of the UK Copyright Licensing Agency, Educational Recording Agency, and International Association of Audiovisual Writers and Directors. He has served on the boards of several NGOs and ethics groupings (information and computer ethics and bioethics). chris AT His publications are at and and his blogs are and