I am pleased to be able to return to blogging in this space after a rather extended stint in the land of higher education administration, and am welcoming a re-immersion in matters related to using communication to help facilitate development efforts. One such matter on my mind following the administrative assignment is the relative lack of contact between academics that study development and practitioners who actually do development work.
The gap is widely noted anecdotally, and a recent study confirms the anecdotes. The Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication recently reported a study, conducted for BBC Media Action, on the reach and impact of Media Action’s work globally. One of their findings is that the world of practitioners underutilizes help that is available from academia: “…practitioners are less likely than other development stakeholders to consult academic research on the media…,” and “the policy community involved in funding media programs makes only moderate use of available research and evidence.” Of course, it goes both ways. Promotion up the academic ladder tends to reward theoretical inquiry regardless of real world impact. And, thus, much research tends to be more useful theoretically than practically. Furthermore, for reasons there isn’t time to review here, the considerable number of communication research graduate programs that include development studies has atrophied in recent decades.