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Guidebook 38 Communicating the Value of Transportation Research National Cooperative Freight Research Program Case Study The Freight Stakeholders Coalition (FSC) demonstrated the importance of communication with congressional and legislative representatives. The coalition was formed in the early 1990s as the freight community began to recognize the benefits of coordinating its efforts to bring national attention to freight issues and to lobby for funding for freight-related projects on the federal level. The group had considerable experience communicating with government leaders, and it joined with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) to push for the National Cooperative Freight Research Program. Mandated by the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), this program provides money for freight research in a variety of areas. Communication with Congress was essential to the program's acceptance. To gain governmental support, a program or project must be advocated by a credible group that represents the key stakeholders. FSC, AASHTO, and others provided the proof Congress needed to understand that the research program was desirable and necessary. Additionally, FSC and AASHTO provided consistent advocacy, using arguments that focused on issues of broad, current, and national interest. Connecting the research needs with current events enabled representatives to see the value of the research program for the industry and for their constituents. Communicating with Applying the Policy Makers Communication Process Context: Policy makers are the gatekeepers When and Why between research findings and implementation In many ways, policy makers (e.g., state and and can become champions national DOTs, other transportation-related for a new technology or organizations, or research supporters) can be for the research program. considered a combination of research program They are also intermediaries managers and elected officials. They are a more between projects and technically knowledgeable audience, similar to funds and can become the research peers. They also have formal processes champions for the research regarding decision making and budgets program. Policy makers are similar to congressional processes. Consistent often fiscally accountable communication with this audience is important to others, so your Communication Process because people in these positions often decide communication must relate whether to adopt or test a new product or the benefits of your research process. Policy makers who see research that in the context of a business model (i.e., how has positive results in the early stages may be the research contributes to your organization's willing to devote resources--either money or mission or offers a cost-saving new technology or personnel--to the later stages of the research. alternative to a current practice).
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Guidebook 39 Putting It All Together Strategy: Because policy makers require implementers. Finally, make use of the web by both information and proper organizational posting presentations, papers, and reports for procedures, an important strategic concern is easy access by policy makers. to find an advocate for your program within the policy-making organization. Advocates know Style: Like elected officials, policy makers have and understand the organizational rules and many demands on their time. Communicate your regulations, so they can help introduce your research agenda clearly, simply, and concisely. findings and recommendations through the State the important points up front. Provide appropriate panels and paperwork. A second anecdotal evidence where possible, but be ready strategy, as discussed below, is to make use of all to answer any questions. Details are important, available channels for communication. Leaving but only after you have "sold" your ideas to policy no communication stone unturned will not only makers. educate policy makers, but may also help you connect and build professional relationships with potential program advocates. Content: Policy makers need to know the specific details of research programs, and like elected Creating Human-Interest officials, their time is also limited. You can use Research Stories several methods to communicate the essential details. First, anecdotal success stories give a Policy makers and research funders often want personal and human face to scientific research, to know how research affects people, so consider so connect your ideas to real people and real the following: problems. Second, because policy makers look Research stories must be human- for innovative ways to help save lives, conserve interest stories. Look for and emphasize fuel, and increase efficiencies, highlight the the benefits of research for people. innovative work you do and the benefits of that Whether related to saving lives or saving work to areas important to policy makers. Finally, fuel, tying research programs to real provide policy makers and their liaisons with best people helps to improve your message. practices and anecdotal evidence that can be Link to current events. Connect your used for education. research to what is happening in society or in a specific community. Do not overlook popular media as sources of Channels: A wide variety of channels are inspiration. Social problems and movies appropriate for communicating with policy can give your communications a point makers. Panel discussions at conferences can that is relatable to the audience. help you understand their needs, can introduce Give specific examples. new research and important facts, and can help As you conduct research in the field or you meet potential advocates who share your interview community leaders about their program's interests and priorities. PowerPoint needs, take pictures and keep notes. is frequently used for presentations, so do not These can add personal elements to your overlook the importance of this channel. Because communications. PowerPoint presentations often need to function as stand-alone presentations, they must be clear Source: National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, "Communicating Science to the and make good use of visuals and graphics. Public: A Handbook for Researchers." Papers and reports in scholarly, professional, and trade publications can target prospective