Skip to content

Building a public identity for R&D – Lessons from past campaigns

31 Jan 2023

The Discovery Decade project is seeking to understand public attitudes to R&D and highlight best practice from across the sector. Our January 2023 report, ‘Building a public identity for R&D: Lessons from past campaigns’, is part of that effort.

This report explores a curated selection of sector-led efforts to unite R&D advocates and shift the identity of R&D in people’s minds, to understand what worked and what we can learn for the future. These are: Science [So What? So Everything]; Science is Vital; MadeAtUni; Research at Risk; SHAPE: Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy and 101 Jobs That Change The World.

For each, we assess the aims, audiences, tactics, successes and challenges, drawing a set of lessons learned from the initiatives. We then make six overarching recommendations that we hope will be useful to future efforts to build a public identity for R&D.

  1. Start and finish with understanding your audience: Successful campaigns understand their target audiences and recalibrate themselves by regularly returning to the data
  2. Be brutal and bold – but always honest: Successful campaigns talk about having to be brutal when defining their key lines – even if it brings risks.
  3. Make your messages relevant and relatable: Successful campaigns choose messages that are meaningful to the audience they are trying to reach.
  4. Collaborate to create an effective campaign: Successful campaigns involve the partners who will be promoting their messages as early as possible to help build support.
  5. Target financial resources wisely: Successful campaigns make effective use of financial resources – they know when to hire external help and when to focus in-house.
  6. Dedicate sufficient time and capacity: Successful campaigns use and balance their time and capacity wisely.

We are drawing on these lessons to inform our own work with the Discovery Decade project, which also includes an extensive piece of audience research into public attitudes to R&D and the development of campaign prototypes and tools to help the R&D sector build effective campaigns.

Building a public identity for R&D – Lessons from past campaigns

Download Report