Today, worldwide, research is asked to generate benefits for people and companies in a far shorter time span. Research is required to be accountable and effective and the impact to be evident. In South Africa the urgent call for socially-relevant science that supports national priorities is set against the enormity of our development challenges.
Clearly, investment in research and development needs to make a difference in the economy, environment, society and the quality of life of our people. The CSIR’s mandate is clear in its call for the improvement of the quality of life of the people of South Africa. Living up to this mandate should be evident: it should be evident in all the stories told; in all the communications issued.
But the organisation has traditionally performed better in communicating intended impact at the start of projects - reporting about the new and the now, and not on the longer-term impact. A critical look showed that the CSIR has poorly documented and communicated its impact. Benefits from our work were not explicitly categorised and named; no dedicated websites or publications were compiled to specifically cite impact and no dedicated collection of our impact success stories was published. There was also ample room for improvement in how impact has been woven into the stories that have in fact been told.
The CSIR realised that is has become imperative for the organisation to take a bold approach in telling the stories of our research/technological innovation; underlining our contribution to mankind’s understanding and knowledge pool; illustrating the economic, societal and environmental benefits for South Africans and highlighting the impact on government policies.
The CSIR started with a conscious effort to improve on its impact communications. It was made possible with the approval of the organisation’s Strategic Framework for Impact Assessment in 2010 in which the organisation outlined how it views impact; how it intends to plan for improved impact; how it would assess impact achieved, and what principles needed to be heeded in communicating impact.
In a new impact series, the CSIR uses a participatory impact approach, where the views of participating beneficiaries capture how their lives have changed. Each case study comprises an article for download; a short video for internet broadcasting and a longer programme on DVD.
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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

The tricky business of communicating a science organization’s impact
A case study from the council of scientific and industrial research, South Africa

Alida Britz   Impact communications; Council for Scientific and Industrial Research CSIR

Today, worldwide, research is asked to generate benefits for people and companies in a far shorter time span. Research is required to be accountable and effective and the impact to be evident. In South Africa the urgent call for socially-relevant science that supports national priorities is set against the enormity of our development challenges.
Clearly, investment in research and development needs to make a difference in the economy, environment, society and the quality of life of our people. The CSIR’s mandate is clear in its call for the improvement of the quality of life of the people of South Africa. Living up to this mandate should be evident: it should be evident in all the stories told; in all the communications issued.
But the organisation has traditionally performed better in communicating intended impact at the start of projects - reporting about the new and the now, and not on the longer-term impact. A critical look showed that the CSIR has poorly documented and communicated its impact. Benefits from our work were not explicitly categorised and named; no dedicated websites or publications were compiled to specifically cite impact and no dedicated collection of our impact success stories was published. There was also ample room for improvement in how impact has been woven into the stories that have in fact been told.
The CSIR realised that is has become imperative for the organisation to take a bold approach in telling the stories of our research/technological innovation; underlining our contribution to mankind’s understanding and knowledge pool; illustrating the economic, societal and environmental benefits for South Africans and highlighting the impact on government policies.
The CSIR started with a conscious effort to improve on its impact communications. It was made possible with the approval of the organisation’s Strategic Framework for Impact Assessment in 2010 in which the organisation outlined how it views impact; how it intends to plan for improved impact; how it would assess impact achieved, and what principles needed to be heeded in communicating impact.
In a new impact series, the CSIR uses a participatory impact approach, where the views of participating beneficiaries capture how their lives have changed. Each case study comprises an article for download; a short video for internet broadcasting and a longer programme on DVD.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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