By Tessa Lewin
What does validity mean in an environment where bloggers and journalists are often viewed as more credible, useful or accessible sources than researchers? How are the roles of researchers and research communicators changing?
This landscape has been undergoing a significant shift in recent years.
The emergence of new technologies has been accompanied by other shifts in the politics and business of development knowledge: the understanding of what constitutes ‘expert knowledge’, a growing emphasis on process over product in research, and new understandings of what drives social change and policy influence.
With the rise of participatory and co-constructed communications have come suggestions that the rigour and ‘hard evidence’ needed to influence policy has been neglected. As some have turned back to grassroots forms of communication such as community radio, they face ambivalence from others struggling to see what is new or innovative about such ‘archaic’ approaches.
Blane Harvey and Susie Page, I have written for and edited the latest edition of the IDS Bulletin journal, entitled
New Roles for Communication in Development?.
We wanted to explore these interesting changes by drawing on the experiences of practitioners, theorists and community intermediaries from a wide range of disciplines.
We came from a range of disciplines and experiences ourselves - I'm Communications Manager for the Pathways of Women's Empowerment research programme, Blane is a Research Fellow in the Climate Change team at IDS and worked recently been working on Climate Airwaves, a community radio project, whereas Susie Page was manager for the Impact and Learning team, focused on 'how communicating research brings about change'.
The Bulletin's articles reflect the overlaps and disconnects within different fields (particularly on how new technologies, approaches and configurations of research communication are influencing the practice of development) and sit, at various points, in tension or consensus with one another. They reflect the unresolved nature of the politics and practice of research communication – and begin to map a complex picture of this arena.
We outline our thinking on this in more detail in the Bulletin's Introduction: Is development research communication coming of age? (PDF)
Over the next few months we will be inviting the contributors to this Bulletin to write a series of blog pieces, outlining and reflecting on their articles in the Bulletin.
Watch this space….
Tessa Lewin is Research Office in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at the Institute of Development Studies. She's also Communications Manager for the Pathways of Women's Empowerment research programme consortium.
Read the full blog series..