On March 5th, the Research Alliance’s Communications Director, Chelsea Farley, led a panel discussion, “Working with the Media to Inject Rigorous Evidence into the Coverage of Education Issues.” The event was part of the Institute of Education Sciences-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training (IES-PIRT) proseminar series at NYU. Farley was joined by Leslie Brody of the Wall Street Journal, Sarah Garland of The Hechinger Report, and Alex Zimmerman of Chalkbeat.            

The panelists discussed the roles researchers and journalists play in making education research accessible and relevant for large audiences. They reflected on challenges researchers face in communicating their work to journalists, including fears that their findings may be misinterpreted, differences between the pace of work in journalism and in research, and challenges of presenting a study’s nuances in a way that can be easily understood outside of academia. 

The conversation suggested a number of strategies that researchers might use to collaborate with journalists more effectively. For example, panelists urged researchers to get to know reporters’ work and develop relationships with those whose coverage they appreciate. Researchers should be conscious of the news cycle (e.g., don’t pitch a story that has already been heavily covered, and don’t expect reporters to be responsive when they are in the throes of covering some other major, time-sensitive topic). Panelists also emphasized the importance of researchers being able to articulate—in a few short sentences or bullet points—why their study matters and how their findings are new. The conversation highlighted the need for researchers to practice describing complex concepts in language that non-experts can understand. Creating simple, compelling graphics can also help communicate key findings to broad audiences.         

Perhaps most important, the event underscored that researchers and journalists share an interest informing the public about the results and implications of rigorous education research. The Research Alliance will continue working toward this goal in New York City.  

Learn more about NYU’s IES-PIRT series here.