Journal article

Does engagement predict research use? An analysis of The Conversation Annual Survey 2016

Digital media Research engagement Research impact


The impact of research on the world beyond academia has increasingly become an area of focus in research performance assessments internationally. Impact assessment is expected to incentivise researchers to increase engagement with industry, government and the public more broadly. Increased engagement is in turn expected to increase translation of research so decision-makers can use research to inform development of policies, programs, practices, processes, products, and other mechanisms, through which impact can be realised. However, research has shown that various factors affect research use, and evidence on 'what works' to increase decision-makers' use of research is limited. The Conversation is an open access research communication platform, published under Creative Commons licence, which translates research into news articles to engage a general audience, aiming to improve understanding of current issues and complex social problems. To identify factors that predict use of academic research and expertise reported in The Conversation, regression analyses were performed using The Conversation Australia 2016 Annual Survey data. A broad range of factors predicted use, with engagement actions being the most common. Interestingly, different types of engagement actions predicted different types of use. This suggests that to achieve impact through increased engagement, a deeper understanding of how and why different engagement actions elicit different types of use is needed. Findings also indicate The Conversation is overcoming some of the most commonly identified barriers to the use of research: access, relevance, actionable outcomes, and timeliness. As such, The Conversation offers an effective model for providing access to and communicating research in a way that enables use, a necessary precursor to achieving research impact.

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