L.L. Lekena, C. Selepe

Tshwane University of Technology (SOUTH AFRICA)
The importance of considering scientific evidence in planning, policy formation and decision making, also known as research uptake, has been well accepted far beyond matters of business and management to diverse fields such as medicine, government and public policy and education. However, in spite of the apparent acceptance of the value of research for sound decision making, it is also known that for many reasons decision makers, the world over, do not seem to integrate the results of research habitually into planning and the decisions they make. Literature comparing research uptake by differing professions reveal that educationalists are less likely to use research literature than other professional groups – especially professionals in the health sector. In recent history in addition, there has been a propagation of literature concentrating on research uptake and how planning, policy formation and decision-making can be better informed by scientific evidence. A notable factor is that this phenomenon (research uptake) has been called different things by differing scholars including but not limited to knowledge translation, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, research utilization, implementation, diffusion, and dissemination. Two broad issues namely engaging the stakeholders and using evidence in decisions feature significantly in this literature. This literature also stresses the importance of adequately engaging the public including civil society organisations, media and consumers which is deemed to subsequently increase research uptake.

This field of research uptake is an emerging, yet imperative area of ‘meta’ research – insight into different approaches on disseminating and using research is continually surfacing. This study explores how disseminating research findings using electronic newspaper articles and social media platforms encourages research uptake in a university. Data was collected through altmetrics which analysed the online attention an article received and notes from feedback sessions with environments in a university Data is collected through reflective practice guided by the following reflective questions: What's working well? What needs changing? What are we learning? Where do we go from here? What’s the reaction by others? Data gathered was used to appraise, understand and positively transform institutional research uptake practices in this university.

Findings reveal that this strategy persuaded accounting officers to engage with survey reports and turn the data into decision-support information and evidence to management in ways that had never been realised before. The author theorises that this strategy has unintentionally led to an adoption of a student focused paradigm for decision support. Individual accounting officers subconsciously saw the articles as public naming and shaming and therefore went an extra mile to engage with the findings and commit to a publicised improvement plan. Students are also publicly convinced that their voices are valued in planning and decision making which positively impacts response rates. This is in line with literature which suggested that engagement of the public, media and consumers have the power to enhance research uptake.