The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is engaged in a major four-year programme entitled Strengthening Evidence-based Policy, funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). Central to this programme is the production and communication of policy-relevant research findings.
Monitoring the effectiveness of research communication can be challenging, but it is essential in order to assess the influence of research-based evidence on policy decisions in the real world. The sheer number of different actors and activities involved in global knowledge-sharing is vast, so the terrain is extremely complex. Even deciding what to monitor and how to go about it can be less than straightforward, and when this has been determined, weak or limited monitoring data can still be a significant obstacle.
However, changes in online communications over recent years present new opportunities for monitoring. Social media in particular have begun to change not just how research is communicated but the way that audiences interact with the communication process. Audiences are no longer merely passive recipients of knowledge, and social media are increasingly being used to communicate specific messages arising from within research evidence. In the past this was often done to support campaigning and advocacy work, but it is rapidly becoming a feature of routine communication activities even where there is no explicit advocacy component.
This paper attempts to address some of the challenges of monitoring by exploring opportunities presented by online and social media. In particular, we develop a prototype tool for monitoring and visualising some of the ways that research messages are communicated in online spaces.