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23 July 2017
A Strategic Approach to Research Uptake Print
Thursday, 16 October 2014 13:54

Researchers from the  Oxidative Stress Research Unit at CPUT developed a research communication strategy for her valuable research findings on rooibos tea. In so doing, the helped the institutions’ Research Uptake strategy.

Getting Research Uptake right

Rooibos is good for you!

This is the word being spread by Professor Jeanine Marnewick, a researcher who made headline news with her study on rooibos tea and its health benefits. Based at the Oxidative Stress Research Unit at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), Marnewick made a significant contribution to health research in 2011 when her clinical trial revealed that drinking six cups of rooibos per day holds definite health benefits, and specifically helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body and lowers the risk of heart disease.

While her research findings have been featured in several journal articles (see the footnote at the end of this blog), Marnewick didn’t stop there, but is ensuring that these findings reach those who need it – from industry to the health conscious individual.

Communication of the results to the public is very important as biomedical research should not only address relevant community health problems, but also be proactively applied to improve the overall health of our communities.”

Spread the word

Communication of the results to the public is very important as biomedical research should not only address relevant community health problems, but also be proactively applied to improve the overall health of our communities,” says Marnewick.

Thanks to a strategic communication plan, the research findings have been widely circulated, with coverage ranging from newspaper articles to features on international television programmes.

 

Benefits of sharing

When sharing the rooibos tea research findings, whether through press releases, interviews or public lectures, the findings have been presented as generic information. “We’re not aiming our research findings for uptake by specific brands, but rather at creating a broad public audience awareness, to ensure that results are available and accessible to both the public and to industry,” she says.

Valuable research evidence has been developed as a result of the research, and communicating and sharing this information in an accessible way has had both direct and indirect benefits in terms of getting the Rooibos message out there. Some examples include:

 

  • a popular tea brand and a local dairy company have incorporated the research findings into their product information and branding.
  • a well-known South African cosmetic house that sells several rooibos-based products has also incorporated the research into their marketing information.
  •  The Cancer Association of South Africa has compiled a rooibos fact file, that features the research findings. (http://www.cansa.org.za/files/2014/07/Fact-Sheet-Rooibos-Tea-July-2014.pdf)
  • The research has also been widely featured on the web – at time of writing, a Google search with “drinking 6 cups of rooibos tea” as a search term rendered 164 000 hits* while a search with the term “rooibos Marnewick” rendered 20 500* hits.

 

Accessibility

Marnewick says Research Uptake is a key component of a research study and requires strategic planning. In her case she roped in CPUT’s Marketing and Communication Department and the SA Rooibos Council who generated and distributed press releases. 

However, she didn’t just rely on the communication specialists but attended media training and science translation communication workshops to learn how to deal with journalists and how to translate her research findings for non-scientific audiences.

She says researchers who want to make their findings accessible must also build good relationships with journalists and PR companies. “Know your field of research – this is a critical factor when starting to interpret your data; be sensitive to journalist deadlines; and base your claims on good quality science,” says Marnewick. “That way one ensures that the correct message is sent to the public.”

"researchers who want to make their findings accessible must also build good relationships with journalists and PR companies"

Conclusion

Individual researchers can play an important role in the dissemination of their findings and play a crucial role in the Research Uptake strategy. The success stories featured in this case study shows how important it is that a researcher has the enthusiasm and willingness to take the next steps after publishing in scholarly journals, but also emphasises the role that the institution can play to support researchers, in this case the CPUT Marketing and Communications Department.


Candes Keating, Communication Officer, Marketing & Communication Department, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

Telephone  +27 21 959 6311, Website: www.cput.ac.za

Footnote for research article’s details:

1)     Jeanine L. Marnewick, Fanie Rautenbach, Irma Venter, Henry Neethling, Dee M. Blackhurst, Petro Wolmarans, Muiruri Macharia. Effects of rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) on oxidative stress and biochemical parameters in adults at risk for cardiovascular disease, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2011, 133: 46-52

2)     Jeanine L Marnewick. Chapter in book: “Systems Biology of Free Radicals and Antioxidants“ by Springer Reference Work Part XVII, Publisher Springer-Berlin-Heidelberg, Editor I Laher, Chapter 181 entitled “Antioxidant properties of Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis): in vitro and in vivo evidence“, pp4083 – 4108, 2014, chapter DOI 10.1007/978-3-642-30018-9_164, Print ISBN978-3-642-30017-2, Online ISBN978-3-642-30018- 9

3)     Jeanine L Marnewick,Irma Venter, Fanie Rautenbach; Henry Neethling; Maritha Kotze. Chapter in book “African Natural Plant Products Volume II: New Discoveries and Challenges in Chemistry and Quality” by American Chemical Society Symposium series Volume 1127. Eds Juliani HR; Simon JE; Ho C-T. Chapter 8 entitled: Rooibos: Effect on Iron Status in South African Adults at Risk for Coronary Heart Disease, pp103-114, 2013, Chapter DOI: 10.1021/bk-2013-1127.ch008; ISBN13: 9780841228047; eISBN: 9780841228054.

 

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