Information Science Solutions to Communicating Public Health Research Findings to the Public

Caitlin J Bakker, Shanda L Hunt

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Objectives: We conducted a needs assessment of public health researchers as part of a multi-institutional study led by Ithaka S+R November 2016 - January 2017. The aims of the study were to capture the evolving needs, opportunities, and challenges of public health researchers in the current environment and provide actionable recommendations.

Methods: This study reports on the data collected at one site. Participants (N=24) were recruited through convenience sampling, and one-on-one interviews were audio recorded. Recordings were sent to a professional transcription service. Qualitative analyses were conducted using NVivo 11 Pro and were based on the principles of grounded theory. Both authors independently coded four interviews using line-by-line open coding, after which coding agreement was assessed and a coding scheme developed. Transcripts and field notes were independently coded by authors. The two NVivo databases were merged, which showed great accordance between coders. The authors pulled emergent themes from the data.

Results: The data revealed that researchers recognized the need to communicate the significance of public health research findings to the public, yet felt they lacked the skills and resources necessary. Many researchers questioned the value of making articles, research data, and other outputs openly available. They expressed their frustration in trying to make complex data sets and research findings easily digestible by broad audiences. Finally, they did not make the connection between their professional marketing activities and dissemination.

Conclusions: Information professionals can assist public health researchers in modernizing and broadening their dissemination practices by considering alternative forums, such as repositories and open education resources, and by utilizing formats, such as data visualizations, that more effectively convey research findings. Libraries can assist in the creation of plain language summaries of research outputs and introduce researchers to the ways in which social media is being used to communicate to the public. These strategies could advance public health communication to the public, practitioners, and policymakers, as well as contribute to open science.
Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - May 2018
EventMedical Library Association Annual Meeting: Adapting Transforming Leading - Atlanta, United States
Duration: May 18 2018May 23 2018


ConferenceMedical Library Association Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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