Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Research4development: Communication and the digital orange

Brussels, 6 June: This peer to peer session brought together a rich mix of ideas and approaches to research communication. The Southern Africa Research and Documentation Centre in Zimbabwe presented its virtual library, publishing, and expert databases; the European Commission presented plans for a European Development Report to communicate research; and the Institute of Development Studies described recent discussions they hosted on the role of infomediaries between Researchers and Policy makers.

Catherine Fisher used the metaphor of oranges production and consumption as a way to depict and understand the research information value chain. A research organisation might be the tree, others would pick the fruit, various others process, distribute, quality check, package and market the products.

Participants who found the model useful argued that it introduced new ideas such as the need for market research in the research information chain. Those questioning the model felt that research organisations could themsleves directly produce and market their information online - 'digital organges' - without the various intermediaries.

More generally, those working with African research felt that the orange we currently consume may not be as wholesome or nutritious as it could be - it is largely dominated by Northern content.

Others argued that the metaphor missed an important dimension of information. As Michel Wesseling of ISS said: "the orange when eaten is finished; information when used, and particularly when shared, just keeps on growing."

Whilst difficult to match all the elements in a research communication model, the orange metaphor certainly provided food for thought. We have the ingedients for a continued discussion ...

Find out more about research and research information at the Euforic research dossier.

Story by Chris Addison

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