Increasing pressure to publicise research findings and generate impact, alongside an expectation from funding bodies to go beyond publication within academic journals, has generated interest in alternative methods of science communication.
Our aim is to describe our experience of using a variety of creative communication tools, reflect on their use in different situations, enhance learning and generate discussion within the systematic review community.
Over the last 5 years, we have explored several creative communication tools within the systematic review process and beyond to extend dissemination beyond traditional academic mechanisms.
Central to our approach is the co-production of a communication plan with potential evidence users which facilitates (i) the identification of key messages for different audiences, (ii) discussion of appropriate tools to communicate key messages and (iii) exploration of avenues to share them. We aim to involve evidence users in the production of a variety of outputs for each research project cognisant of the many ways in which individuals engage with information.
Our experience has allowed us to develop an understanding of the benefits and challenges of a wide range of creative communication tools. For example, board games can be a fun way of learning, may flatten power hierarchies between researchers and research users and enable sharing of large amounts of complex information in a thought provoking way, but they are time and resource intensive both to produce and to engage with. Conversely, social media shareable content can be quick and easy to produce and to engage with but limited in the depth and complexity of shareable information.
It is widely recognised that most stakeholders do not have time to invest in reading large, complex documents; creative communication tools can be a used to improve accessibility of key messages. Furthermore, our experience has highlighted a range of additional benefits of embedding these techniques within our project processes e.g. opening up two-way conversations with end-users of research to discuss the implications of findings.
Coon, J.T., Orr, N., Shaw, L. et al. Bursting out of our bubble: using creative techniques to communicate within the systematic review process and beyond. Syst Rev 11, 56 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13643-022-01935-2