The new research communications environment

Three key insights from the 2017 URF Research Communications Pulse Check

The results of the University Research Forum Research Communications Pulse Check are in. We surveyed CROs and research communications directors from 25 member and non-member institutions to learn how universities are communicating the value of research. Take a look at three major insights from the Pulse Check, and register for our 2017-2018 national meeting series to learn more about what the changing research communications climate means for your institution's strategy.

Pulse Check

1. Industry partners are the new top priority stakeholder for research communications, but federal agencies aren't far behind.

When we asked about the importance of communicating the value of their institutions’ research to each of nine major stakeholder groups, respondents most frequently cited communicating with industry partners as most critical to their overall research strategy. This result may reflect recognition of the changing funding environment, as industry partners are now the fastest growing funding source for research. Of course, federal agencies are still critical, so it is not surprising that they ranked a close second in priority. Communicating with philanthropic partners presents the greatest challenge to respondents, who deem these communications as very important but infrequently impactful.

Communication Stakeholders

2. Weekly use of social media is part of the research communications strategy at most institutions, with Twitter and Facebook as the favored platforms.

All participating institutions indicated that they use some form of social media (i.e. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to communicate about research at their universities. Usage varies from daily to less-than-monthly, though the most common rate is weekly usage. Twitter and Facebook are used at 91% of responding institutions, whereas Snapchat is used at only 9%.

Social Media

3. Faculty engagement in communicating about their work may represent the greatest area of opportunity for research communications strategy.

80% of respondents reported that they would like their institutions to use (or more effectively use) training to help faculty better communicate about their research when approached by the media. However, only 40% of respondents’ institutions currently offer training. In addition, 64% of respondents reported that less than a quarter of faculty at their institutions speak regularly with secondary research media, which may be driven in part by a lack of training.

Research Communications

Note: "Regularly" was defined as "more than twice per year" and "secondary research media" was defined as "not academic journals, but rather popular news outlets, trade publications, etc."

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