Reporting and dissemination

Dissemination and ‘impact’ – summing up

There are two fundamental ethics issues to bear in mind when you consider the dissemination of your research.  The first relates for to the ethical responsibility for research findings to be accessible – so that they can be used (and useful), so they can inform the development of knowledge in your field, and to ensure that your work is transparent and open to scrutiny.  The second relates to the responsibilities you have to those who provided the data on which your research was based – a responsibility to disseminate well, in line with core principles of ethical practice in research (such as confidentiality).

Beyond those over-arching considerations, the following list summarises the key points you should take into account:

  • Consider how your research findings may be interpreted and used by those to whom you disseminate your work. Will they have a vested interest in a particular ‘angle’ on your findings?  Could your work be used in ways you did not want?  People may dismiss research findings, saying they are distorted.  You can anticipate these issues to some extent by asking critical friends to check study outputs, and revise to take account of any criticisms.
  • Journal editors may require you to write a statement about whether or not you have a material interest in the topic that you have studied.  They may also require evidence of ethics approval for the work.
  • If dissemination is an important outcome from your work, you should build in time, funding and possibly training, to ensure you have the resources to disseminate your research effectively.  This is particularly important if you think your research could be widely disseminated – whether that’s because it’s a topic that is likely to catch media interest, or because the focus of your study means you want it to have a wide reach or influence.
  • Which groups do you want to reach?  Why?  What do you want to happen as a result of dissemination?  Consult about the best ways to reach your target audiences and to meet the objectives of dissemination.  The earlier you do this, the better, but it is never too late.  Speak to experienced colleagues, as well as to stakeholders or representatives of the groups that you hope to reach.  What works well in their experience?
  • Consider involving interested parties at an early stage of your project, especially if your work aims to inform the development of a public service. If people with an interest in a given service have a chance to influence a study’s focus, they are more likely to want to consider the study’s findings.