Version 0.15 October 2012 (working draft)
Intended audience: research managers and researchers, recommunication and information professionals
Repackaging information is about reprocessing it into a form that can be readily understood by, and is usable by, a specific user. Repackaging should be seen as one of the key solutions to addressing the barriers between the people who commission research, the people who conduct research, and the people who the research is most meant to benefit.
The purpose of this pathway is to help in understanding why and how we should repackage information. We address the issues involved in this activity and the benefits which can devolve from it.
What do you need to do?
Spread the word: The first step is to ensure that the different stakeholders within your institution, or with whom you work, understand the need for repackaging and the benefits it can deliver. A programme of repackaging:
- Will help you to analyze your research outputs in new ways and reorganize them based on new needs assessments and standards.
- Will help you to clarify what outputs you have and what may be of importance to different audiences.
- Will help you to clarify the goals and vision of your research.
- Will make your research outputs more accessible and usable by other stakeholders, such as extension services and farmer groups.
- Will distribute your information more widely and hence promote the quality of your institution's work.
- Can enable you and your institution to become involved in Regional and International activities by translating research outputs and making them more accessible to global audiences.
- Can strengthen the image of your institution as a powerful information resource at national, regional and international levels.
Infomediaries: Think carefully about whether you want to build the capacity in your own institution to carry out repackaging to multiple potential stakeholders, or whether you want to use expertise that is already established in organizations who specialize in this area – infomediaries. Infomediaries may also be specialists in the dissemination and communication of research outputs. Without targeted dissemination, repackaging in itself has limited value.
Carry out a needs assessment of potential users: Who are your potential user groups (students and scientific staff, researchers, policymakers, extension services, farmers, NGOs, private sector), what type of information do they need and how do they communicate with you and each other? Do you know how these target groups use information?
What kind of information should be repackaged?: What are your primary information outputs and which will be useful to your target groups (research papers, project reports, proceedings, extension leaflets and brochures, learning and teaching materials, newsletters, images, videos, and so on). Create priorities for different user groups. Assess the content in terms of how it might be subject to restructuring and repackaging (condensing, rewriting, translating, etc.).
What formats should information be repackaged in?: Stakeholder involvement is essential for identifying appropriate formats into which outputs can be repackaged. For instance, farmers may not have access to the Internet, or policy makers may only have time to read a short piece of information, so you must adapt your information and message for the user. The range of dissemination options is wide: print (books, research reports, success stories, leaflets); digital information (Internet, website, e-mails, forums, blogs, etc.); static databases; CD and DVD; video; radio and television; mobile phone.
Generally, international standards for digital information should be used to enhance dissemination and retrieval through local, national, regional and international systems. As mentioned above, base your choice of file formats on both the needs of your intended users/stakeholders and the needs of your organization. Remember that:
- Presenting documents in open, standard formats allows every person with a browser to read the documents.
- Users can become frustrated and are less likely to access information that requires downloading with additional software or plug-ins.
- Some proprietary files are so large that visitors with slow connection speeds cannot download them.
In general, industry standard formats (such as HTML and XML) provide the greatest flexibility. Also Portable Document Formats (PDF), such as Adobe Acrobat, are useful when it is important to retain the original formatting of a document, such as forms or brochures, or if a document is long and it is likely that a reader will prefer to print it out for later reading. (See ‘Using Appropriate File Formats’ in References for further detail.)
Language barriers: Users may be local, national, regional or international. Language issues are critically important in addressing differing user groups.
Who does the repackaging?: There are two options:
- You and your institution. Your national (or international) situation may be that you are part of an extensive network of research organizations and affiliated institutes. Many of these may have researchers and others with the necessary range of scientific, technical and communication skills to carry out a programme of information repackaging. This may be particularly fruitful where repositories and web sites are in common use for the archiving and dissemination of research outputs.
- There are many expert organizations (infomediaries) who have specialized skills in managing and transforming research information for different user groups, and in the communication of research knowledge. They may be local organizations, NGOs, or in the private sector.
Build these repackaging and communication skills in your own organization, with the support of the organization. Build teams with affiliated institutions and their human resources; giving them moral and/or financial support will develop momentum in these revolutionary activities and result in positive and fruitful changes. The whole area of effective communication within and between networks, and with internal and external stakeholders, is a significant and complex one and is addressed in another CIARD Pathway.
- Ghana Agricultural Information Network System (GAINS). GAINS is a Coordinating Centre, based at the Institute for Scientific and Technological Information (INSTI) in Accra. It is a national network that identifies, collects and disseminates agricultural information in Ghana and acts as a referral centre for requests on agricultural information as well as sustainable development and food security.
- The use of ‘store and forward’ email as a tool for the dissemination of health information in rural Mozambique – Ministry of Health.
- Kenya Medical Research Institute is repackaging HIV/AIDS information into newsletters for business, and rural and marginalized settings.