Thursday, 28 May 2015

Aditi Bulletin Issue 2

Note from Managing Editor
The launch of the 2nd edition of Aditi at the Think Tank Initiative Exchange 2015 in Istanbul was a momentous event. Not only was the process of publishing Aditi presented in one of the session, Aditi (Issue 1) was launched and well-received. While the 1st issue focused on domestic funding, the current issue focusses on the Importance of Communication. We have attempted to bring in experiences of various stakeholders-policy makers, researchers and media to name a few. What is interesting is that contributions have come from several members of Think Tanks and non-Think Tank organisations from across the globe. Some of the articles cover experiences, musings, case studies etc. I would like to thank all the contributors for providing enriching articles and the reviewers for taking time to provide feedback and useful comments. Hope you enjoy reading this issue. You can send your queries to


Managing Editor, Aditi

Launch of Aditi at Istanbul

Vanesa Weyrauch
Co-founder, Politics&Ideas

Research communications has driven the attention of many of us in the past years, as Think Tanks try out innovative and attractive ways to get their research out to diverse stakeholders. In fact, significant progress has been made in terms of raising awareness on how good communications plays a pivotal role for Think Tanks to better engage in policymaking, and hopefully even to promote some type of change in the process, to those who participate in it and also on its results.

This edition of Aditi brings in very different but complementing experiences and perspectives on how Think Tanks can become compelling storytellers by translating their research findings into meaningful messages for different stakeholders. Moreover, as included here too, this is something that policymakers themselves need help with. So why not weave more stories together? Which are the metaphors, images, graphics, messengers, etc. that can provide interested parties with a clearer view on why change is needed in terms of policy?

Several contributors highlight the importance of thinking about citizens and their role in this complex and ever changing communications process. I find this reflection very relevant and an invitation to further think about enlarging the current communications framework. In fact, even when a Think Tank could find the ideal policymaker who is willing to pay full attention to its recommendations or analysis based on key factors analysed such as, reputation, credibility and high quality of research, he/she would probably ask him/herself: what will this mean for the voters? How will I be perceived and regarded? Will this help me gain political power? Or vice versa: what would happen to me if I do not regard this knowledge?

Yes, Think Tanks need to create new stories, use innovative technologies that facilitate communication in terms of synthesis and reach, and promote an internal culture that embraces opportunities to engage in dialogues with others. But to make strategic decisions in communications, we should not lose sight of the context. 

Indeed, it is important to invest time and energy in understanding how good research communication may help us to make a contribution to policy discussions, as several examples of this issue convene. The key word here is ‘contribution’; we need to acknowledge that what Think Tanks bring about to the discussion is only one of many elements that will come into play - as opposed to a readily deployable solution to a self-contained problem. In other words, policy discussions and the politics surrounding them cannot be preempted by a research piece, no matter how groundbreaking, innovative, conclusive or well-communicated it may be. Hence, it can only be meaningful insofar as we manage to successfully engage with a variety of actors with diverse legitimacies and roles who may use and interpret different types of knowledge-produced by us and others.

There are some inspiring examples of effective understanding of context and how to interact with its variety of actors in this issue. Hope they keep coming in and help us re-create communications, constantly.
Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, Bureau of Energy Efficiency

Vaqar Ahmed, Deputy Executive Director and Saleem Khilji, Senior Editor (English)

Influencing Policymaking: Framing Recommendations Beyond Evidence
Valerie G. Traore, Executive Director, Niyel
Karin Fernando, Senior Research Professional, Centre for Poverty Analysis, Sri Lanka

Communicating with Policymakers: The Issue of Reputation
Nadhiya Najab, Junior Research Professional, Centre for Poverty Analysis, Sri Lanka

Rene Hernandez Gonzalez, Communications Director, FUSADES

Jonathan Louis Stead, Head: Strategic Partnerships and Special Projects, South African Institute of International Affairs

Will Paxton and Guy Lodge, Kivu International

Concept - Dr. Jai Asundi, Principal Research Scientist, CSTEP
Illustration - Bhawna Welturkar, Graphic Designer, CSTEP

Humour in Writing
Amidst all the seriousness of scientific writing, every now and then researchers let slip gems of humour. Other than proving to be coffee table jokes, certain phrases that are coined for research communication should also be included in a table of ‘Phrases to beware of’.
Compiled by Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander, Head, CPE, CSTEP and Arushi Sen, Senior Communication Officer, CSTEP

Senior News Editor, NDTV
The notion of what the mainstream news media stands for has changed. In addition to the 4 most widely read newspapers in the country, it also includes TV channels with large viewership, social media platforms like Twitter, and key wire networks like Firstpost and The Wire (in the Indian context). The most important factor deciding the fate of a research communication product is its packaging; gone are the days when one Press Release sent to different media would result in coverage. Identifying opinion leaders amongst the media community and establishing personal contact with them is crucial. 
Data Visualisation Compilation
On Think Tanks launched the 2014–15 compilation of the #ttdatavis competition at the Cartagena Data Festival in Colombia. The compilation and the competition inspired Think Tanks and similar organisations to showcase real world examples of impactful data visualisation. It also contains useful resources and ‘how tos’ to support Think Tanks to develop their own visualisations.

The compilation is available as free download as an interactive eBook (408 MB), which is also available in the iBooks store, as well as a downloadable PDF (100 MB). It includes 46 entries, which emerged from 31 think tanks spanning 19 countries around the globe.

The topics of the visualisations cover a lot of ground. The second round of the competition coincided with the COP20 climate negotiations in Peru and focused on climate change and the environment.

Jeff Knezovich, the editor of the compilation, described the compilation:

“Think tanks may have similar goals and objectives, but this competition clearly demonstrates the wide array of approaches think tanks have toward meeting those goals. We saw both static and interactive visualisations, to be sure.

But beyond that, some took a clear message-driven approach while others developed tools that let the user understand the data more clearly. And while some sought to tell stories about their research, others used visualisations to increase explain government actions (or proposed actions) pushing greater transparency and accountability. It’s a broad collection that any Think Tank can find inspiration in.”

For more information…
Additional Reading – On Research Communication

A collection of blog posts that present an overview of the different discussions on communicating research that have been published on On Think Tanks.

A 10-step primer from a media expert on how to get your or your organisation’s opinion and work noticed by the mainstream media; on your terms without making compromises.

This article speaks about the challenges that researchers face when they need to get in touch with Policymakers.

A website dedicated to building a network between research communication and media for more effective local, national, and international development action.

Compiled by Arushi Sen, Senior Communication Officer, CSTEP

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