2 Mental health research in the news
Why is it necessary to present scientific and clinical research results in a clear, accurate and concise way? How are research findings and new knowledge disseminated? Why is it important to think about the target audience? The answers to these questions may well be obvious to you, but are worth exploring further at this point.
Contemporary research is by necessity the work of ‘specialists’, and communicating research findings is a key priority that allows investigators to remain at the forefront of their respective field. Researchers typically disseminate their new findings by means of oral or poster presentations at conferences and symposia, and follow these up by publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals as a formal means of communication to peers (specialists and practitioners) working within the field. Communication in this sense is not restricted solely to peers (other specialists or a 'professional' audience within a chosen field). Researchers are also frequently called upon to communicate their findings to other specialists as well as non-specialist and ‘lay’ audiences, including the general public. Such forms of ‘knowledge transfer’ can involve use of different media − written reports, government or policy documents, blogs, podcasts, video clips, news articles, and radio or televised broadcasts − aimed at specific audiences – policy makers, funding councils, professional bodies, charitable organisations, the mass media and the general public, amongst others.
Complex issues that are tackled by research in today’s global society increasingly require a multidisciplinary approach and involve cross-disciplinary communication, with close working relationships and collaboration between researchers from different backgrounds and fields of study. Motives for engaging with research targeting issues that are widely perceived as important may vary, and need not be necessarily altruistic. Dissemination of knowledge, however, enables scientific and clinical progress to be made, allows new hypotheses to be formulated and tested, increases public awareness of developments in science and medicine, and of their benefits to society, and raises awareness of mental illness further. These activities depend on the appropriate selection of (trustworthy and reliable) information, and its timely and effective communication.