Communicating health research (68) Have you ever published a research paper? What happened? (3)

24 September, 2022

As Chris says, "the information overload and redundancy is certainly getting more and more severe as the information age progresses"

This has obvious implications in the context of our current discussion on 'Effective communication of health research to policymakers'.

It is impossible even for a specialist to read all published articles relating to their specialty, let alone policymakers.

Most primary research studies that are relevant to any given policy issue will never be read by the policymakers responsible, indeed they will probably not be aware of the titles and conclusions of those studies.

When done well, secondary research (eg systematic reviews) provides a solution to this problem. The burden of identifying relevant studies is done by specialist secondary researchers who are skilled in finding, interpreting and synthesising the evidence. The findings of systematic reviews, when done well, are typically more reliable than those of the individual studies on which they are based. And yet systematic reviews have limitations.

Which brings us to the question: what are the differences (if any) between the effective communication of primary research and the effective communication of secondary research?

Indeed, from a public health perspective, to what extent should primary researchers (and their institutions) be supported to continue pushing their individual research studies into policy and practice as compared with more focused support for a 'pull' process led by secondary researchers complemented by global-local research synthesis?

Perhaps the one area where a single primary study is most likely to have an impact is local research - research that is conducted in the country where the policy decision is to be made. As we have heard on HIFA many times, policymakers are more likely to take note of local research.

I would be very interested to hear from secondary researchers (eg systematic reviewers) and primary researchers (particularly those doing local/national research) about your experiences of communicating health research to policymakers.

Best wishes, Neil

Joint Coordinator, HIFA Communicating health research

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health movement (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. HIFA brings stakeholders together to accelerate progress towards universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK based non-profit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Twitter: @hifa_org neil AT