By Annie Hoban
“This is the first time these people are in one room to discuss research communication”
– Fátima Proença, Director, ACEP
On Friday, 11 November, I spent the day with a group of ten Portuguese international development researchers at Lisbon’s Clube de Journalistas. I was invited by ACEP, the Associação para a Cooperação Entre os Povos, which, like Panos London, is a communication for development NGO.
ACEP supports a network of civil society organisations in Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Mozambique and Angola and works with journalists and filmmakers in Portugal and abroad to raise public awareness of development issues. ACEP has also developed good relationships with Portuguese institutes producing new development research. They see great potential for collaboration to help them communicate research findings both to the Portuguese public and policymakers and to development practitioners in Africa.
However, tellingly, this meeting was the first time they had all come together to discuss research communication in a coherent and strategic way.
As ACEP’s Director Fátima Proença told me:
“[Research communication] is an area that we would like also to explore in Portugal. Nowadays, there is a lot of good research but a large part is not communicated, or is hardly communicated and almost nothing in Portuguese language. So, important findings are not available, neither for journalists nor for development workers.”
A few of the researchers – among whom were researchers from the Centre of African and Development Studies, the Centre for Migration and Intercultural Relations, and the Institute of Agronomy – had personal experiences of building trust and relationships with individual journalists.
The participants developed a number of proposals for future work on research communication:
- Holding a meeting for journalists and researchers to talk about perceptions of one another and discuss the training and tools needed to develop their skills
- Holding a forum to ‘critique of development aid’ and inviting journalists to participate
- Organising more training for researchers and journalists to ensure accuracy of reporting
- Meeting regularly to share communication experience
- Supporting researchers to communicate better with NGOs
- Translating more research into Portuguese
- Emphasis communication during the education of MA students and encouraging dissertations topics of relevance
I shared insights, from the experience of the Relay programme, about working with researchers and the media to build relationships and communication skills to reach the wider public through media coverage. We also discussed the need to strengthen the communication of research by working with research-users (such as policymakers, practitioners and the media) to understand their information needs, in the context of complex political and policy environments.
The meeting was just a starting point in an important process which ACEP are keen to continue developing. They plan to further investigate the information needs of their partners in Africa in order to discern ways in which research can be made most useful – to inform practice on the ground. Participants agreed that ACEP is well placed to be an intermediary, reaching out to both researchers and research-users in Africa and Portugal.
Liliana Azevedo, ACEP programme manager, left the researchers with a couple of questions: what audience did they most want to reach and how could ACEP support this? Panos will look forward to hearing about and supporting the exciting work to come.