by Sonja Likumahuwa-Ackman
In this first of a two part series on the use of a blog to assist with research dissemination and engagement, Sonja Likumahuwa-Ackman of OHSU Family Medicine discusses the formation of Frontiers of Healthcare. In addition, the author gratefully acknowledges Heather Angier, MPH; Jill Arkind, MPH; Robin Carter, MBA; Erika Cottrell, PhD, MPP; Deborah Cohen, PhD; and Jennifer DeVoe, MD, DPhil for their contributions to this work.
There is a significant lag time in translating research findings into practice. One contributing factor is that traditional dissemination strategies, such as publishing articles after lengthy peer review or presenting at scientific conferences, have a long time horizon, reach a narrow audience, and thus do not encourage rapid, widespread sharing of information. To speed translation, some have called for augmenting traditional approaches with new strategies to rapidly and effectively communicate information to diverse audiences. Dissemination approaches that are not traditionally used in practice-based research (e.g., blog, Twitter™, Facebook™) have the potential to rapidly communicate findings to audiences who will find the work meaningful and actionable. Technology platforms that facilitate engagement and dissemination are quickly emerging. For example, it is increasingly common for academic conferences to use Twitter™ to encourage discussion and share content. Many academic journals produce companion blogs without the same peer review requirements as journal articles to quickly disseminate findings, viewpoints, and perspectives. Researchers are experimenting with different ways to communicate findings. Researchers themselves have begun writing blogs, and there are now aggregators that group scientific blog posts by topic. These non-traditional methods for disseminating academic work, especially blogs, are viewed as strategies to tell the story about research results in a way that makes the content more accessible to a wider audience. However, these platforms are not always well understood or trusted due to the ease of publication and lack of peer oversight.
The OCHIN/OHSU collaborative research blog—Frontiers of Healthcare (www.frontiersofhealthcare.com) —was launched in 2013 to engage stakeholders and rapidly report findings in the study of an alternative payment methodology demonstration project in Oregon community health centers (CHCs). We found the blog to be a useful tool for augmenting more traditional communication strategies, such as press releases and internal messaging; it also provided a place to make announcements about newly funded projects and manuscripts published and helped foster new community collaborations. We heard from many people in the community that it was a useful source of information and we frequently referred people to the blog when they wanted to learn more about our research. We learned early on the importance of developing collaborations with professionals well versed in the world of blogging who were savvy to strategies for increasing readership, establishing a following, and encouraging bi-directional communication. Perhaps most importantly, we had the benefit of working with a funder who recognized the value of non-traditional dissemination methods, activities that are often not recognized by funders and not accounted for in the indirect resources provided by academic institutions. This experiment in dissemination activities yielded many interesting and surprising lessons, which we will cover in part two.
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