Many of society's most important documents are static PDFs ... 33% are never even downloaded. There is minimal measurement of how much the research is reaching of end users. How might we optimize research for digital platforms for maximum reach and impact?
We want to help research institutions optimize their static publications for the mobile web and help with dissemination to stakeholders.
Our commitment to systems-thinking demands us to investigate root causes. With this in mind, our interview questions for users are shaped by some foundational questions that we ask ourselves as a team.
Most research published to the web exists as a PDF file, or Portable Document Format. In the best case scenario, there is an abstract that summarized key points. But the entirety of the content is not available on the web.
The format of a PDF file is inaccessabile for many reasons. It's also unlikely to be opened and the content is not likely to come up in a search result unless it is also in the abstract.
Research institutions often have strategies of their own to disseminate research to interested parties and collaborate with media outlets, partners, funders, and advocacy organizations. There are also federal efforts to engage key stakeholders and end users from the beginning of the process.
We conducted user interviews with local research institutions to validate our initial assumptions.
Most policies or strategies pull from multiple research reports, so tracking becomes difficult.
Funders ultimately control/own how the research report gets disseminated.
Research units often monitor general usage, including other reports where the research is cited, media placements, web traffic, and social media traffic. But a report's journey that might result in a policy application or strategy is not often tracked.
If funded by a the federal, state, or municipal government, conducting research is a public service that often goes unnoticed by the general public.
How a research report is consumed (mobile, desktop, etc) is not typically tracked.
What type of end user (researchers, journalists, policymakers, industry professionals, industry aficionados) is consuming the research is not typically tracked.
The workflow to share published research is different for every report, and there are few opportunities for automation.
After hearing from users, we prioritized a design direction that focused on measuring reach and influence on stakeholders/policy.
We started off helping research units optimize their completed publications for mobile devices. This entailed creating microsites that blended in with their existing website.
We're exploring solutions that track "conversions," following the journey from a point of engagement to a point of application in policy/strategy.
We aim to identify the type of end user consuming the research from 50% of all web traffic collected.
We aim to identify the type of end user engaging in social media from 50% of all engagement interactions.
Of all engagement/consumption, research units want to track 50% of those interactions to an applied policy/strategy, i.e. a "conversion."
Please contact us about how to get involved.