Researchers often produce study findings that policymakers and practitioners need but the findings are rarely packaged in a manner that makes them usable and digestible, which can be less impactful for policy change which is less impactful for policy change. If research is to be understood by policymakers, the media, and other non-technical audiences, it must be conveyed clearly and compellingly. The Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) helps bridge this gap in understanding between research teams and their target audiences by translating research and formatting it in ways that can help inform public understanding.
A significant area of activity undertaken by RTAC is working with USAID-funded research teams to amplify results through technical assistance aimed at effective communications and creating strategies to amplify research findings in a local policy context. Specific offerings include developing high-quality, targeted communications products in multiple languages, leading research teams through an intensive Research-to-Action planning process, conducting political economy studies and stakeholder analyses, and systematically monitoring and evaluating the results of this technical assistance.
Research Communication Products
RTAC communicates evidence generated by USAID-funded researchers in compelling and accessible language using a range of visually appealing formats. Working with research teams and USAID, RTAC identifies target audiences, crafts key messages, develops action-oriented recommendations, and determines the best format to communicate results to their primary audiences. Using project documentation and results shared by the research teams, RTAC works in consultation with the research teams to create communication products that convey key findings in compelling and accessible language using a range of visually appealing formats, including factsheets, policy briefs, graphically rich presentations, short videos, or other formats suitable to the target audience. The research products help researchers strategically communicate research insights or technical innovation to different audiences in a way that can be readily used to inform policies, programs, or practices in a particular sector.
To date, RTAC has completed communications products for RTAC’s own original research and third-party researchers/other USAID funded research on a wide range of technical subjects:
Communication Products for Third-Party Research/Other USAID-funded Research:
- Educating Moroccan Youth for a Productive Future
- Early Diagnostic Test Promises to Improve Treatment and Control of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in Tunisia
- Sharing the Land: Applying Innovative Approaches to Meet Community Needs for Effective Land Management in the DRC
- Smoke Signals: Policy Solutions to Sustain Columbian Forests
- Training Manual: Using Cocoa Pod Husks to Improve Crop Yields and Soil Quality in Cameroon
- Damming the Ecosystems of Amazonia: Taking an Ecosystem View of Hydroelectric Dams in Brazil
- Contact Tracing: Policy Solutions to Address Childhood Tuberculosis in the Northern Philippines
- The Agricultural and Economic Advantage of Biopesticides: Increasing Rice Yields and Smallholder Farmer Equity in Mali
- Cooling from the Sun: Innovations for Effective Post-Harvest Cold Storage in Rural Areas of India
- Electro-chemical Arsenic Remediation (ECAR): Reducing Toxic Arsenic in Drinking Water in India
- GridWatch: A Low-Cost Approach to Measuring the Reliability of Power Systems
- The Time is Now: Preserving the Ecosystems, Fisheries, and Cultural Heritage of the Amazonian Rivers
- Striga-Resistant Sorghum Offers a Sustainable Alternative for Kenyan Farmers
- USAID READ Program: A Novel Approach Boosts Literacy in Dominican Schools
- Preserving and Restoring Mangroves Protects Communities in the Philippines
Communication Products for RTAC Research
- Small and Early-Stage Businesses Segmentation Study in Nigeria and Uganda
- Research and Innovation Fellowships Program Review
- Strengthening Resilience and Self-Sufficiency Among Refugees in Kenya
- Market Study, Food Security Analysis, and Stakeholder Mapping in Zimbabwe
- Food Security Analyses in Mali
- Communication for Sustainable HIV/AIDS Financing
- Haiti Food Security Market Analysis
- COVID-19 and the Future of Food Security: Updated Analysis and Undernourishment and Child Stunting Briefs
- Climate-Related Migration Foresight: Migration Modeling and Climate Game Changers
- Resilience and Food Security Amidst Conflict and Violence
- Evidence Gap Map to Assess the Effectiveness of Development Research in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
- Using Machine Learning for WASH Programmatic Synthesis
Research to Action Plans
As outcomes of technical assistance workshops, RTAC produces Research-to-Action (R2A) Plans for teams of global scholars. The R2A plans are a resource for the teams to guide development of their research goals and objectives and implementation of related activities. The R2A plans map out the steps needed to achieve these research objectives and, ultimately, their research utilization goal. RTAC also completes rapid desk review of relevant policy/sector context to assist with R2A plans. As the plans are “living” documents that research teams may update based on research progress and new opportunities identified, they are not shared publicly.
The nine completed Research-to-Action plans and two political economy analyses are also wide-ranging in technical and geographic focus, as highlighted below:
- “Diagnosis of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis: Development and Evaluation of Multiplex Point of Care DNA Assays” in Tunisia
- “Scaling Up Quality Kangaroo Mother Care Practices” in Indonesia
- “Using Contact Tracing to Reduce the Burden of Childhood Tuberculosis in the Northern Philippines”
- “Off-grid, Clean Energy Cooling for Affordable Storage of Perishables for Bottom-of-the-pyramid Farmers” in India
- “Baselining Persistent and Emerging Organic Pollutant Levels in Environmental and Engineered Systems (PEOPLES) for a Healthy Philippines”
- “Unlocking Agricultural Potential in Drylands: Enhancing Efficient Utilization of Soil Moisture for Improved Smallholder Farm Productivity in Arid and Semi-arid Lands” in Kenya
- “Mapping of Pesticide Residue and Oocysts on Vegetable and Fruits Using Low-cost Field-based Assays” in Nepal
- “Assessing the Impact of Evaporative Cooling Technologies for Improved Vegetable Preservation” in Mali
- “Teacher Wellbeing and Social Emotional Learning Study” in Liberia
- “Scaling Back Wildlife Trade in the Mekong Delta: A Political Economy Analysis”
- “Enhancing Water Quality Monitoring and Improving Water Disinfection Processes”: a Political Economy Analysis in Lebanon”
As a testament to the success of this work and the RTAC team’s ability to form sustainable partnerships, principal investigators and beneficiaries of RTAC’s technical assistance have participated in sessions to discuss Planning for Research Utilization and Best Practices on Research Dissemination and Communication.
Translating USAID Research
As part of its support to USAID’s Research Division in the Innovation, Technology, and Research Hub (ITR/R), RTAC developed materials to showcase the importance of investing in research to accelerate development solutions. Through research, research translation and utilization activities, high-level policy convenings, specialized training, and short-term technical assistance, RTAC seeks to advance the impact of USAID’s development investments in a variety of sectors, worldwide.
- Investing in Research to Accelerate Development Solutions : RTAC facilitated interviews with senior ITR/R staff to determine the audience and purpose of a fact sheet to be used to amplify ITR/R’s work and results. In consultation with the Research Division, RTAC then designed and produced a fact sheet which serves as an entry point to ITR/R’s work for high level stakeholders. This work builds on previous activities, including focus groups and strategy retreats and guidance, aimed at engaging ITR/R stakeholders and staff to develop its overall strategy and messaging approach.
Development, Research, and Innovation Virtual Engagements (DRIVE) Convening: RTAC facilitated a series of five online convening known as the Development, Research, and Innovation Virtual Engagements (DRIVE) series for the development practitioner community. Sessions have featured experts from around the world to explore lessons on capacity building, research utilization, and sustainability, as well as special interest sessions like research dissemination and communication strategies.
Research Translation Toolkit
In addition to providing technical assistance in the form of communication products and research to action plans, RTAC also developed the Research Translation Toolkit which supports researchers with their own research translation by providing exercises, fillable forms, and templates as well as links to examples, key resources, and testimonial videos. Each toolkit section guides researchers through a series of steps to prepare specific outputs, such as a communication product, stakeholder analysis, or research-to-action plan. RTAC also held a four-part webinar series that provided an overview of the toolkit and a deep-dive into its three sections- the slides, recordings, and additional materials for each webinar are available for download.