A new report by international development charity Panos London argues that greater interaction between key research and media players is essential to improved reporting of crucial development issues around the world.
Previewed today at a unique forum* co-hosted by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Australian Government Aid Program (AusAid) and the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences, the new case study, Reporting tax research, focuses on the activities and outcomes of a Panos London training workshop held in Kenya** where researchers, journalists and civil society organisations worked together to improve media coverage of Kenyan tax and governance issues.
The report describes how the participants were able to air their frustrations and misunderstandings about each other's professions and efforts, and how the subsequent workshop activities, such as role play and editorial mentoring, addressed these concerns. This was followed up with a fellowship programme for selected journalists.
The training sessions resulted in a series of powerful press articles on taxation in Kenya, contributing to a newly emerging debate in the Kenyan media over government transparency and accountability. The East Africa Tax and Governance Network (EATGN) was also established to ensure continued debate and coverage of these issues.
Panos London's Executive Director, Mark Wilson says: "There is often discord and misperceptions between researchers and journalists because of the very different nature of their jobs, resulting in key research findings being misinterpreted or even left out of the headlines. Without a greater focus on getting research into the news, the potential for improving lives through research and innovation will be lost.
"The media coverage and debate on tax that has been generated as a result of Panos's workshop in Kenya is a promising sign and indicates what could be achieved in other countries. It also shows what might be achieved with further investment in, and support for, journalists and researchers in Kenya."
Relay's programme manager, Annie Hoban says: "Reporting tax research describes some of the methods and activities developed by Relay and illustrates what can be achieved when researchers and media practitioners understand each other's needs. We hope it will encourage others to adopt Relay's approach to improve media coverage and debate of research.
"What's more, our attempt to document evidence of results is a major step towards knowledge of real impact and how to effectively communicate this to our partners, donors, beneficiaries and the wider public."
Reporting Tax Research is available to download from the Panos London website and will be widely disseminated among UK donors and partners interested in understanding research communication and funding initiatives to improve research-informed development. Kenyan and international researchers, communication specialists, and media development practitioners will also receive the report.
** Panos East Africa and Panos London worked with two main partners to convene a workshop for researchers, CSOs and Kenyan media representatives at Lake Naivasha in Kenya on 15–17 November 2009. The first of these partners was CommGAP, a global programme at the World Bank which promotes the use of communication in governance reform programmes. The second partner was the Centre for the Future State (CFS), based at the Institute of Development Studies, UK. The CFS conducts research on governance, with a focus on the central role the interaction between state and society plays in constructing effective, accountable public institutions. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) and CommGAP provided funding for the workshop.