The following session summary is written by Lauren Radomski, M.P.P., AcademyHealth.
Comprised of researchers, policymakers, journalists and others, AcademyHealth's Translation and Communications Interest Group (IG) focuses on practical ways to understand, translate, and communicate research findings to meet the needs of various audiences. At the IG's annual meeting on Saturday, participants had the opportunity to discuss the myriad of challenges and opportunities researchers face in effectively communicating their work, and to demonstrate a new presentation approach that relies on imagery and storytelling to convey information in an engaging way.
Kicking off the program was Jean Slutsky, P.A., M.S.P.H., Chief Engagement and Dissemination Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). In her keynote talk, Slutsky provided an overview of PCORI's research portfolio, which includes 279 research projects in nearly 40 states -- more than $464 million in total funded awards. She also offered advice for researchers seeking PCORI support. She encouraged potential applicants to think purposefully about how to actively engage patients and other stakeholder groups throughout the research process (as opposed to simply submitting a letter of support from a patient advocacy group as part of the application). Another piece of advice to applicants: If at first you don't succeed, try again. According to Slutsky, during the winter 2013 funding cycle, 29 percent of resubmitted applications were funded, versus 12.7 percent of all applications.
Saturday's session also included a workshop led by Kristin Rosengren, AcademyHealth's Vice President for Strategic Communications. As she explained, a crucial first step in any communications strategy is determining the end goal and target audience, whether it's creating awareness among members of the public or requesting action from a targeted stakeholder group. Once a target audience is identified, it's important to research that audience to better understand what they care about, the level of influence they have, who they trust, and other factors that may influence their receptivity to your message. From there, you can start to think through how to craft your message, how and when to share that message, and how to measure its impact. Using one of the top abstracts submitted to the Annual Research Meeting, participants at the IG meeting developed a hypothetical communications strategy for researchers seeking to secure funding to expand the study.
Finally, reflecting the IG's interest in experimenting with new approaches to communicating research findings, the three abstracts selected for presentation at this year's meeting were presented using a modified version of the PechaKucha presentation style. Launched by a pair of architects in 2003, the PechaKucha format limits the presentation to 20 slides, with 20 seconds spent on each slide. While the IG presenters followed a modified version of this approach, their challenge remained the same: create a concise, engaging presentation that uses everyday language and simple, straightforward images to tell a story (in this case, about research). Their presentations not only highlighted interesting research, but also prompted a discussion among the group about the benefits and potential drawbacks of this presentation style for communicating health services research to various audiences.