How Research Retold started
“Research Retold was not the result of an ‘Aha!’ moment, but rather me connecting disparate dots into a unique service which solved a genuine problem. I gained professional experience in Brussels, and trained as a social scientist and data scientist. Researchers in my department needed to present their findings and I figured out a way to solve that need by using my skills at the time… Years later, we’ve seen this need grow and we’ve expanded our capacity to deliver projects.” Mihaela Gruia, Founder and Director
HOW CAN YOU BENEFIT FROM OUR RESEARCH SUPPORT SERVICES?
Each year approximately £6 billion are invested in research in the UK (UKRI). Yet, the resulting findings are under-utilised in decision-making processes because those who need to implement them don’t understand either the jargon and how the findings apply to them and their day-to-day activity.
Before I set up Research Retold, I met with over 100 researchers and senior managers across 7 UK universities, as well as individuals working in research-oriented organisations.
Those conversations led me to believe that to maximise the societal impact research can have, the findings need to be presented in short, digestible formats.
Long, detailed, jargon-filled research reports are perfect when the audience is familiar with the research area or when there is a need to go into the nitty-gritty of the research and methodology.
However, in most situations when discussing with high-level policy-makers, NGOs and public sector officials, civil servants or the general public, research needs to be presented in a format that can be easily absorbed and digested.
It is this process of capturing the essence of the research and retelling it using accessible language and visual aids that we aim to deliver at Research Retold.
In light of this, our mission is encapsulated in the following statement:
Research Retold provides research support services as communication and design to help you present your findings in easy-to-read and creative ways.
HOW CAN YOUR RESEARCH BE ‘RETOLD’?
Step 1: Making the findings easy to read
A crucial part of our research support services refers to the language in which the findings are presented. This means that wherever possible, academic or industry-specific jargon is removed, and key messages are rephrased using laymen and non-technical language. Beyond this, elements of storytelling are inserted to make the narrative more compelling and relatable.
This step is carried out by one of our research communicators with guidance from the researchers. Three ingredients are key: an understanding of the research, the main findings, and the audience of the summary.
This understanding is developed through a series of pinpointed questions and discussions. Condensing 20 or 40 pages of research into 2 or 4 pages is an iterative process that requires flexibility and open communication. In the end, the most important and relevant messages are captured in a concise summary tailored to a given audience.
Victoria Hasson, Research Communicator
I feel privileged to help get key facts, information, and evidence communicated to a broader audience. Research communication is all about making information digestible so that it can have a greater impact. At times it can also be about opening up the language of research to a broader audience. This is the most satisfying aspect of research communication because I feel I’m helping the writer and the reader to reach each other without them having to put the work in themselves, and in the end making that connection is the most rewarding aspect of this work.
Victoria is one of our team of talented research communicators who pull out research findings with clarity and focus.
Step 2: Making the findings beautiful
The second important part of our research support services relates to visuals. This entails transforming the text into various visual components. The narrative used to present the research findings is turned into a visual narrative. Our imagination is kickstarted and concepts, ideas and processes are illustrated visually.
This creative stage of the research communication process comes after the summary. The summary acts as the starting point for the creative journey.
The inspiration for this step can come from the theme of the research, the elements that make up that theme, the nature of the research, namely qualitative or quantitative) the people impacted by the research or the setting in which the research is presented. Any of these aspects can provide a starting point to visually reimagine the research findings.
The design process can fun and challenging. The goal is to match the visuals to the research, in an authentic and representative way of the people it speaks about. As we saw in the collaboration with Pf Caroline Dyer, we ensured that the icons accurately depicted the education context of pastoralist populations in African countries and not Western ideas of education.
In terms of concrete final formats, these can be policy briefs, visual summaries, infographics, illustrations, infocomics, videos or documentaries. The only ‘limiting’ factor to creativity is where the research is being presented and the intended plan for disseminating the final product.
Beyond the ‘Oh, this looks lovely!’ factor, these visual representations have to create a link between the audience and the author of the research to facilitate further collaborations and, in the process, maximise the impact the research can have in the real world.
Radina Metodieva, Graphic Designer
The first step is to understand what the research is about and what key messages should be highlighted in the design. I then brainstorm ideas about how to design these messages in interesting ways. Deciding on colour palettes and sketching ideas is one of the first steps. Will it have icons? Or photos? Maybe some fun illustrations. Whatever it is, it has to be relevant to the research. This is an enjoyable process. It’s fun to create new designs and learn new things I might have not even known about from the research papers themselves!
Radina is one of our talented graphic designers who visually interpret research findings in engaging and appealing ways.