Pilot 5: Addressing & reaching businesses and the public with research output


The goal of the pilot study was to analyse and test how disseminated research results from the Energy area can be made more interesting, appealing, and usable for target audiences beyond the research community. In this pilot we particularly addressed businesses and the general public.

In a first step, we interviewed seven science communication experts to define requirements and expectations by these targeted audiences. In a second step these guidelines were tested by a research project in the Energy research area.

Key Results

Based on the input gathered from the science communication experts and the previously involved SmarterTogether project, we created guidelines and recommendations for researchers who want to communicate their research to target audiences beyond academia. The guidelines were tested by the ReFlex project. Based on the provided recommendations and guidelines, the research community re-shaped and evaluated their dissemination strategy and produced targeted dissemination content tailored to its stakeholders. Feedback was collected in an informal discussion and an interview with the involved dissemination team.

The feedback from the ReFlex project gave us very valuable input to improve the guidelines. In particular we added one additional step regarding monitoring and implementing the dissemination strategy during the project runtime. The final version of the guidelines is available on the OpenUP Hub.

A part of the Pilot 5 evaluation consisted of a quantitative analysis of the achieved impact metrics of the project’s Twitter channel and a qualitative analysis of the reached target groups. The goal was to explore if Altmetrics can be used as a meaningful indicator for assessing impact in specific stakeholder groups. In particular, we wanted to test if additional information about the reached target groups can be extracted by means of Altmetrics to answer the question if the alternative dissemination methodology applied helped making the research outputs more interesting, appealing, and re-usable. The qualitative analysis of the reached target groups was done by manually looking at the profile picture, the short text (incl. hash-tags) included in the Twitter profiles, and the history of tweets of the individual accounts from which the re-tweets and likes were made.

Conclusions from this analysis: By looking at the Twitter profiles and the tweets of individual accounts, it is not always evident to which target group the reached individual belongs. For instance, even if the accounts clearly included references to interests in research topics in the profile description text, the tweets and re-tweets from their Twitter history did also refer to other topics such as politics. Accounts of individuals can be used very personally, professionally or both. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the stakeholder or target group an individual belongs to.

An additional difficulty are fake accounts (in fact, one of the individual accounts was marked by Twitter as restricted due to suspicious activities) and private accounts without a public profile. Determining the reached target audience is highly depending on contextual information. If this information is not provided or restricted, it is not possible to make any deductions in terms of target groups reached.

Summarising we can say that the guidelines have proven to be useful for shaping/defining a communication strategy for a research project targeting these two large audiences. However, they do not give enough information and guidance for composing the final communication message as such. What could be re-evaluated and expanded is the chosen terminology and the defined scope and target groups (e.g. to include trans-disciplinary questions or guidance for addressing ulterior target groups). For future research it would be relevant to explore other ways to structure the guidelines and their content to provide additional guidance for the points that our guidelines fail to provide substantial support.

Our pilot did not provide enough evidence about the measurability of impact at the targeted audiences by means of analysing likes and re-tweets by Twitter users. Our results suggest that it is not as straightforward to draw conclusions about the kind of target group Twitter users belong to. It would, however, be interesting to analyse this further with a larger dataset.

Read the full evaluation report here.

Contact: Michela Vignoli, AIT Austrian Institute of Technologymichela.vignoli@ait.ac.at