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PhD Tips: Impact and Research Communication


This posts are tips for researchers and PhD students on impact and research communication I have got from the training session at Cardiff University. The workshop was held by Ms Josie Dixon.

Why communication matters?

  • PhD is a specialist project. Hence communicating PhD research to non-specialists are challenging.
  • Funding: To apply for research grants, jobs you may need to communicate your research to non-specialists.
  • In the UK, REF (Research Excellence Framework) in 2014 is crucial for academics. Unlike REA (Research Excercise Assessment) in 2008, in REF, impact of the research has an important role apart from academic publication.
  • Non-academic publication, the process of publishing is highly mediated mostly by non-specialists e.g., publishers, librarians, marketing people (sales reps.).
  • Sometimes researchers may need to dealing with the media e.g., being interviewed by journalists.
  • Public engagement is now very important for applying for public funding. This is also very important to the universities to sustain the supports for the research in the long term.

Making the case why your research matter

  • Selling point: Not only academic ones but also non-academic, more general, ones.
  • What is the niche of your research. How did you fulfil the demand.
  • Elevating pitch. Presenting the value of your research in a short time (5 minutes)
  • Using keywords that cover all important aspects of your research
  • Balancing the “Big picture” vs. “Details” of your research.
    Big picture = abstraction, overarching, generic. Getting audiences to understand the research in general but too much big picture could lead to lossing human interest in the detail of the research
    Detail =  focus, specifics, concrete, human interest, story telling, using visualisation or comparing to the common/general phenomenons, problem to solution.
  • Organisation: Purposes -> Value -> Outcomes, What are the pay-off of your PhD project?
  • So what?” Values and outcomes
  • Who cares?” = who are the ‘stakeholders’ of your research i.e.,
    (1) Applied users: practitioners & professioners;
    (2) Public sector: communities, policy makers. Difficult to pinpoint and measure;
    (3) Academics: researchers, lecturers and students.
  • PhD thesis is an inward and backward approach that explaining the process and foundation of the research.
  • Public communication is an outward and onward approach to convey the outcomes of the research (what it yields)

Looking beyond the case study: Micro and Macro dimensions of your research

  • Micro dimension provides a specific group of your audiences. The most uniquely specific.
  • Macro offer more board audience of your research. The most board general aspect.
  • For example. My PhD thesis on
    The impact of supply chain collaboration on firm performance in the tourism sector.
    Micro dimension:  Supply chain collaboration in the hotel industry in Thailand using Structural Equation Models.
    Macro dimension: Business Management, Supply Chain Collaboration, Supply Chain Management.

Defining your contribution to the field

  • What, in a nut shell, have been discovered?
  • How will your research alter the way academic think previously?
  • Be confident about your research and the outcomes.
  • Recommended reading: Footnotes and Fancy Free by Prof. Peter Barry (In Times Higher Education)

Making the headlines

  • Telling a story about your research. Consider how to announce it for the public audience.
  • Get the energy and excitement in the statement
  • When you are writing, imagine the best day of your research when you discover something new or find significant results.
  • Exercise: Writing a headline and opening statement in 35 words. The below is mine.

Cheaper and Happier Holiday!
A cheap trip is usually not a happy one.
Now businesses can both reduce their costs and offer a better service at the same time by just sharing their business data.

Outcomes, Benefits and Impact

  • Think about what the research do for the audience.
  • Think about features and benefits, not just the features.
  • Ex. my research
    – Features: Testing a positive effect of supply chain collaboration on firm performance
    – Benefits: Firm can select the right collaborative activities by reduce cost and provide better service level
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