Do projects like to communicate?

Over the last few weeks we have been discussing the findings of a survey we conducted in order to inform our CSFRI (or Horizon 2020) Green Paper response. We have looked at the use of sub-contractors in current FP7 projects, issues surrounding the involvement of SMEs as project partners and the development of Horizon 2020 itself.

In this post we explore some of the attitudes people have towards project communication.

Firstly, it should be noted that our survey provided us with some very positive information about the attitudes of EU research actors towards communication. More than three-quarters of respondents gave the importance of communicating projects to the general public/non-technical audiences a rating of 7 or higher out of a possible 9.

When we broke this figure down according to each respondent’s professional role we observed only minor variations in the average (positive) rating.

The highest rating of 8.5 came from professional communicators (no surprises there, then); the average rating was 7.29 for project coordinators, 7.5 for those in management roles and lowest among researchers at 6.67. This last value seems to confirm the general perception that communication and dissemination is not as highly thought of by researchers as by other project staff.

We also wanted to know what people thought about the funding in FP7 for communication and dissemination. When asked how much emphasis should be placed on these activities in Horizon 2020 relative to FP7 we acquired the results shown in the graph below, where 1 is no emphasis and 5 is significantly more emphasis.

We are very encouraged by the high regard held for dissemination and communication; over 90% of respondents said that the emphasis on communication and dissemination in Horizon 2020 should be the same or higher than in FP7.

When broken down these results by the role of each respondent we again found that, on average, communicators said that Horizon 2020 should have more emphasis on communication while other groups and researchers were found lower down the scale.

So, do projects like to communicate?

Our survey shows that communication and dissemination are generally (and rightly in our opinion) regarded as an essential part of European research projects. But we believe that more work needs to be done to demonstrate a return on investment or prove that communication has a positive impact. Only with such studies can the European Commission convince the more sceptical researchers and scientists that they should put significant effort and resources into telling target audiences about their work. The Commission wants to increase the budget for Horizon 2020 by nearly 50% compared with FP7. We wonder whether there will be any greater emphasis on dissemination work packages, however.

Communication in a different light

At Scientia Scripta we think that the way communication activities are funded should be changed in Horizon 2020. Our proposal is very similar to the UK Government’s Green Paper response which called for the possibility of “follow-on funding” for projects to be made available for the sole purposes of results exploitation. We think that funding for dissemination and communication should be applied for and negotiated once a project in underway and the results and target audiences have been clearly identified.

As always, we are interested in your opinions. Do our survey results reflect your attitudes towards communication? Are we missing anything? How do you feel funding for such activities should operate?

For further details about any aspect of our survey or our own opinions on the topic please don’t hesitate to comment below or contact Scientia Scripta today.

Filed under: CSFRI,dissemination,FP7,innovation,science copywriting | Tags: , , , , | By Hywel on July 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm

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