Academics in forced migration studies often wrestle with how best to disseminate their research findings in order to make an impact on policy and practice. According to Polzer (2007),
There is virtually no explicit writing about the process of disseminating research in the social sciences, and specifically in migration and refugee studies. This stands in marked contrast to the medical and health sciences, where there is a wealth of writing on how to disseminate research findings effectively in order to have the maximum impact on practitioners. A search for the terms ‘disseminating research findings’ on a database of medical research resulted in 346 citations explicitly dealing with the processes of dissemination (see as some recent examples Crosswaite and Curtice 1994; Dowie 1996; Moffatt, et al. 2000; Shove and Simmons 1997; Sobell 1996). The same search in a social science journal database brought up less than 40 articles, most of which only mention dissemination issues in passing. As a specific example, in the flagship journals of refugee and migration studies – the Journal ofWhat are the different methods for disseminating research? A synthesis note from the WEDC lists the following, along with their advantages and disadvantages:
Refugee Studies and the International Migration Review – there has not been a single article specifically concerned with research dissemination since 2001 (p. 4).
- working documents
- research reports
- academic, refereed journal
- professional journal
- conference, workshop, seminar
- training manual
- Internet, email
- popularisation/mass media
- participatory techniques
Recently, the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) announced in its Policy Programme for 2008-9 that it would develop "a new series of policy briefing papers on issues relating to forced migration, protection, and humanitarian response" as one of a "range of communication strategies to ensure that its research findings are disseminated effectively to policy makers and practitioners globally" (p. 2).
And the Global Development Network (GDN) just released a toolkit on "Disseminating Research Online" to promote the successful communication of academic research in an electronic environment.
In the end, a multi-pronged approach may prove most effective. As the WEDC notes, "optimum dissemination is achieved through using a wide variety of pathways, from traditional and face-to-face communication methods, to the use of ICTs... ." Polzer (2007) also argues that thinking about dissemination strategies at the beginning of a research project has value for the research process itself, above and beyond influencing policy outcomes (p. 7).
For researchers interested in trying to assess how research findings and dissemination strategies influence policy, ODI's RAPID Programme suggests using "episode studies": These "refer to a study that focuses on a clear policy change and tracks back to assess what impact research had among the variety of issues that led to the policy change." One example of this approach is presented in the case study of the Sphere Project and how it came into being.
Buchanan-Smith, M. 2003. How the Sphere Project Came into Being: A Case Study of Policy-making in the Humanitarian Aid Sector and the Relative Influence of Research. ODI Working Paper 215. London: ODI. URL: http://www.odi.org.uk/RAPID/Publications/RAPID_WP_215.htm
Global Development Network. 2008. Toolkit: Disseminating Research Online. URL: http://www.gdnet.org/middle.php?oid=373
Polzer, Tara. 2007. Disseminating Research Findings in Migration Studies: methodological considerations. Migration Methods and Field Notes 6. Johannesburg: Forced Migration Studies Programme. URL: http://migration.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/notes6-tarapolzer.pdf
Refugee Studies Centre. 2008. Policy Programme 2008-9: Outline of Activities. Oxford: RSC. URL: http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/PDFs/Policy%20Programme%202008%20Outline.pdf
Water, Engineering and Development Centre. n.d. Spreading the Word: Disseminating Research Findings. Leicestershire, UK: WEDC. URL: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/cv/wedc/publications/snstw/snstw.pdf