Research management

Sponsored by

Elsevier logo

Tips for effectively communicating your research’s impact

Finding ways to communicate the impact of your research can sometimes be a hurdle. Here, Lyn R. Keith outlines effective ways to overcome it and extend the reach of your work

Lyn R. Keith's avatar
23 Nov 2023
bookmark plus
  • Top of page
  • Main text
  • More on this topic

Research management

Sponsored by

Elsevier logo
Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society.
Man with a clipboard in a research lab

Created in partnership with

Created in partnership with

University of the West Indies logo

You may also like

Early career researchers can say no, too
Early career researchers must master the art of saying no and not be too eager to please

In academia, research is the bedrock upon which to build knowledge and drive innovation. However, the impact of research is not just in the discovery itself but in how it is communicated and shared with the world. Here enters research communication: the art of conveying findings, insights and ideas to various audiences. In essence, it bridges the gap between your academic work and its intended audience. For newly minted academics, mastering research communication is not just a valuable skill, but is also a key driver of university research impact. 

Why research communication matters

Before diving into strategies, let us explore why research communication is important.

It amplifies impact: research that remains confined to academic circles has limited impact. Communicating your work extends its reach to policymakers, industry professionals and the public, magnifying its influence.

It fosters collaboration: clear and engaging communication encourages other researchers to build upon your work, enriching academic discourse. One prime example of this is the Global Ocean Sampling Expedition (GOS), which involved the collection and analysis of ocean water samples by researchers around the world. The GOS data led to the creation of a comprehensive map of ocean microbial life, informing ocean biology and climate change research.

It informs decision-making: your research might hold the key to solving real-world problems, such as the Tanzania Essential Health Interventions Project (TEHIP), during which household disease surveys informed health services, particularly for mothers and young children.

How to effectively communicate your research impact

1. Know your audience: understand who you are communicating with and tailor your message to match their knowledge level, interests and needs. For instance, a research paper will use technical terminology to communicate with an academic audience; however, a public presentation might require plain language and real-life stories.

2. Choose the right medium: consider diversifying your communication channels. Use academic journals for scholarly recognition and publish blogs, infographics or social media posts to engage a wider audience.

3. Craft a compelling narrative: follow storytelling techniques commonly used in literature and journalism to create narratives that captivate your audience, making your research more engaging and memorable. One example of this approach involves 12 researchers from the University of Sheffield who underwent a three-month training process to learn how to shape their research experiences into accessible, ten-minute, spoken stories for public engagement. 

4. Visualise your data: learn data-visualisation techniques and use software tools such as Tableau or Adobe Illustrator to create compelling visuals that complement your research. Mike Cisneros’ #MakeoverMonday submission effectively visualises conflict areas in Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia, offering key insights into the impact on the population.

5. Engage with the public: actively seek opportunities to engage with non-expert audiences. Translate your research into layman’s terms, use relatable examples and participate in public outreach activities. A good example of this is Abbie Richards, an academic TikTok content producer, who posts videos to communicate climate science and combat misinformation. Her goal is to make research easily communicable and more relatable.

Use traditional and non traditional methods to measure your impact

Once you have implemented these strategies, it’s crucial to evaluate your research impact. Traditional metrics such as citation counts, social media engagement and the practical application of your research can offer insights into the reach and influence of your work. Tools such as the h-index and Altmetric provide quantitative data to gauge your impact within academia.

Do not limit your assessment to traditional metrics alone. For a more comprehensive understanding of your public engagement efforts, consider tracking non-traditional metrics. These might include the number of views, likes, shares and followers your content gains you and comments on your blog posts or YouTube videos. These metrics reflect the public’s interest and engagement with your work.

When it comes to public talks and engagements, collect testimonials from participants. Encourage them to share their new-found knowledge and passion for your field via social media or to local news outlets. Personal stories and testimonials help demonstrate the real-world impact of your efforts.

Additionally, assessing the impact of your storytelling can be enlightening. Collect feedback and testimonials from your audience to understand how your narratives resonate with them. This enables you to track the ripple effect of your engagement activities within the community.

Last, pay attention to the re-use and distribution of your visual content. Count the number of times your infographics are shared by other organisations, websites or individuals. This indicates the value of your visual content in spreading your research and amplifying its reach. To monitor the reach of your infographics, use social media analytics, track backlinks with tools such as Google Analytics, employ URL shorteners for click metrics, set up Google Alerts and use social listening tools to track online visibility and engagement. To overcome the challenge of tracking offline sharing, consider including QR codes or specific URLs on printed materials and employ unique tracking mechanisms for offline distribution channels. 

See research communication as the compass that guides your academic journey towards meaningful impact. By knowing your audience, choosing the right medium, telling compelling stories, engaging with the public, networking and utilising social media, you can enhance your research’s reach and relevance. 

Lyn R. Keith is a programme officer at the University of the West Indies.

If you would like advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the Campus newsletter.


Research management

Sponsored by

Elsevier logo
Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society.

You may also like

sticky sign up

Register for free

and unlock a host of features on the THE site