Shouting from the Ivory Tower

Professor Per Davidsson, Director of ACE

One of the missions of the Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research (ACE) is to make research-based knowledge on entrepreneurship accessible and useful to practitioners. The question is how to best do that? One way we have tried is to write up short summaries of findings from academic research in newsletter stories and “research vignettes”. Not knowing quite how well that works, and being researchers, we actually did some research on how to communicate research. The result is an article by the title “Shouting from the Ivory tower: a marketing approach to improve communication of academic research to entrepreneurs” by Paul Steffens, Clinton Weeks, Lauren Isaak and myself which has now been accepted for publication in one of the leading academic journals, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice. Ironically, this is of course the type of article and journal that practitioners don’t read, so hopefully the following little summary can reach more people. So, here it goes:

What we did was a type of experiment (called “conjoint analysis”) where we made entrepreneurship practitioners evaluate pairs of research summaries where we systematically varied some features: a) the length of the summary; b) the credibility of the author (professor vs. industry expert vs. no information given); c) the use of academic jargon (light-medium-heavy), and d) media richness, which marks whether text only was used or whether text was combines with graphs and/or video. We found positive effects of message length, which was what we expected within the narrow range tested (50-275 words). The perhaps clearest positive effect is for media richness (so here you go: graph!). Naming the author, whether university professor or industry expert, beats leaving the summary anonymous (not that we present as both “Professor” and “Director” above…).   The results for jargon were not as clear cut as we expected (or perhaps I should say “findings regarding the perceived use of convoluted manners of expression were found not to be completely unambiguous”). So if you find the style of this newsletter entry “typically academic” it sure wasn’t my intention, but it did not necessarily detract from getting the message through, either. Further, one size does not fit all. There are groups of people who have different tastes, in particular regarding the length of the message (see this graph). So some of you may not have got this far…with 386 words at this point I’m already outside the range we studied in our experiment. 

Five Entrepreneur Classes for Format Preferences of Academic Synopses
Five Entrepreneur Classes for Format Preferences of Academic Synopses

Since we at ACE are practitioners of the art of communicating research to practice, we should be the first to take these results on board. And wouldn’t we love to have the resources to produce more video clips to accompany our research summaries! Here is one great example of the use of media richness, although this video from the University of St. Gallen is much longer than we would need for our “vignettes”. We’re working on realizing some animated video presentation, but doing so for all what we produce is well beyond our restricted budget. So if there are readers out there who think they can point us to funding for that kind of purpose it would be greatly appreciated.

 10 Myths of Enrepreneurship_St Gallens

Steffens PR, Weeks C, Davidsson & Isaak L (forthcoming). Shouting from The Ivory Tower: Communicating Academic Research to Appeal to Entrepreneurs, accepted for publication in Entrepreneurship, Theory and Practice. The electronic posting of the report is here but since it is still in the publication process you may have to use the “Request a copy from author” option get a full copy.