When you implement and evaluate a project, you are thinking beyond the project scope and timeline. Even before implementation, you anticipate which organizations and individuals are most likely to benefit from learning the protocol, results and implications of your study. Dissemination of your project outputs, including results, lessons learned, and implications may be an ongoing activity throughout the life of the project, and is a critical concluding activity of any project. It can be accomplished through numerous formats, including written, oral, and presentations. Project outputs can be circulated in a variety of venues and modes including in-person (e.g., at lectures, conferences and professional meetings), electronic (e.g., websites and emails) and manual distribution of materials. Disseminated materials and modes must be targeted to a variety of audiences, which may include program administrators, policy makers, researchers, appropriate key players, targeted populations, and the general population.
What may first come to mind when considering dissemination of project outputs is publishing findings in scientific journals and presenting at scientific meetings. However, communicating project outputs through means beyond these scholarly avenues is equally (if not more) important to affect programmatic changes. Below is a non-exhaustive list of dissemination strategies.
Whether your project has been funded through an outside agency or has been internally supported, you will be required to provide documentation of progress throughout the project period. Progress reports are submitted to communicate process evaluation results, milestones reached, and protocol modifications. Consequently, completing an appropriate progress report is dependent upon ongoing and rigorous documentation of project protocol, modifications, and process evaluation. The intended audiences of progress reports are generally the funding organization and the organizational home of the project. They will be utilized to ensure that the project is being implemented as planned, the timeline is being followed, and activities are being completed. If appropriate, the supporting organization can offer guidance and assistance to ensure that the project goals will be met. There will likely be a required format for the progress report.
Final and organizational reports
Final reports will also be required by funding and supporting agencies, and progress reports will provide a framework for the final report. Typically, a final report will include a brief introduction of the project background, goals, and significance. The body of the report will include: a description of the evaluation design and research questions; methodology; report of the process evaluation; description of protocol modifications if made; description of data collection instruments; results; and discussion including interpretation of findings, implications, lessons learned, and next steps. The final report must include as attachments all materials developed during the project. It is likely that this report will be disseminated by the funding agency or supporting organization as they deem appropriate. The final report will form the basis for all additional dissemination materials and strategies.
There will be numerous organizations and agencies that will be appropriate for presentation of project methodology, findings, and implications. Presentations to a select group of these organizations will be expected and/or required. Examples of these types of organizations include: the funding agency, the organizational home of the project, project partners and other key organizations that were critical to project implementation and completion Presentations at appropriate conferences and professional meetings are a particularly effective way of disseminating project outputs. Presentation to other groups may be at the project staffs’ discretion. Examples of these groups include other home agency staff, community organizations, and program participants. It is best that for all groups, presentations be delivered through tangible visual means (e.g., Power Point slides). Consequently, presenters must be familiar and adept at preparing and displaying the information.
Peer-reviewed journal article publication and meeting presentations
The traditional dissemination method for the academic community (who may be your partners and/or funders) is through scientific publication and at scheduled meetings of appropriate membership organizations. The purpose of this type of dissemination is “to enhance the awareness and uptake of research findings”.1 Because the missions of health agencies and other non-academic organizations are not focused on research, staff may be unfamiliar with this type of dissemination (however, some organizations do have staff with this knowledge). Consequently, as appropriate, it is recommended that project staff work with current academic partners (if such partnerships are in place) or develop new partnerships with organizations and institutions that are familiar with this type of dissemination.
As previously noted, the final report may provide the basis of manuscripts. Your partners will assist you with selecting the appropriate journal to submit to and with following submission requirements. Your staff will be the primary authors of the manuscript. Once submitted, the journal editors will assemble a team of reviewers to assess the merit of the research and its value to its readers. This process can be lengthy (several months). Very often, once reviewed, the manuscript will be returned to you with suggested revisions and the invitation to re-submit it, once modified.
Another scholarly means of dissemination are presentations at membership organizations. Presentation acceptance will result from a competitive process and will require submitting an “abstract” that will be judged by reviewers based upon importance to their members. Your staff may be the primary authors of the presentation, and as discussed in the previous section, presenters must be familiar and adept at preparing and displaying project findings and important information.
Developing a Dissemination Plan
When preparing to disseminate your findings, it’s important to develop a plan to map out products, target dates, target audience, and lead contributors. For conferences and special issues of peer-reviewed publications, you can also capture abstract deadlines. This HPRIL Dissemination Plan template can serve as a guide for how to organize your dissemination activities. It is divided into sections for presentations and written products. We have also included a sample dissemination plan.
- Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Dissemination of Research Results Accessed, 8/9/2022.
Photo source: https://acrpnet.org/2019/08/13/developing-a-clinical-research-manuscript-from-ideation-to-publication-and-beyond/