The research project ReCom-Research and Communication on foreign aid, which is coordinated by UNU-WIDER with funding from the development agencies Danida and Sida, is now midway through its life. There is already a wide array of research produced and available to help aid policy and practice. As the complexity of aid projects and programmes increases so the importance of evidence from sound research becomes more important for sound aid policies.
ReCom is a new way of using the resources of UNU-WIDERs vast research network, and one that requires considerable innovation. Asking researchers from any discipline about the policy implications of their research--and helping them effectively communicate their findings--brings us into a professional dimension where not everyone is entirely comfortable.
As someone who has been involved in communications research I know this from personal experience; moving outside the trusted community of peers involves risks. But it also brings with it great opportunities.
Policy audiences such as advocacy groups, politicians, think thanks and community groups offer considerable scope for dissemination, but this dissemination needs to be done well. Communicating results to the relevant policy makers demands a different mindset than writing research abstracts. This is especially difficult for academic researchers who respect their own and others' specialization and professionalism, and might often see that policy prescriptions or advocacy are not in line with their sophisticated and complex research. Researchers aim to present evidence and facts, but are hesitant to promote any practical advice on complicated issues since that is not perceived to be part of their expertise. Still, we need to ensure that important research results enter the policy domain. Most people in academia understand that international peer-reviewed journals and books are not the most efficient tool for this since the policy audience have too little time to read academic papers, nor does it have the requisite technical knowledge. It is essential to understand this nature of policy-making when communicating results.
Therefore, ReCom is producing and presenting research of the highest academic standard focused on issues that are relevant both to people who design development policies, as well as those who are involved in actually making these plans work. Our aim is to make the findings much more accessible than what is usually the case in...