There are many terms used to describe the processes by which knowledge generated through research finds its way to those who need it – be they practitioners (health workers, farmers, engineers, community workers) or policymakers in government and other agencies.
The terms „research communication‟, „research dissemination‟ and „research utilisation‟ (or research into use) are familiar in the university and development research sectors. Where „communication‟ and „dissemination‟ suggest a more limited conceptualisation of „pushing research out‟ from the university or research institute in which it was produced, and „utilisation‟ suggests the activities of the „end user‟ as they incorporate new knowledge into their practical or policy oriented work, the use of „research uptake‟ is intended to encompass all of these dimensions.
At the same time, there is a need not simply to communicate research to users once completed, but to effectively scope and understand their needs in the initial stages of project design, and in some cases to involve them in research as it progresses.
The ability of universities to respond to the research needs of its stakeholders in the design and undertaking of work therefore also forms part of a comprehensive research uptake approach.
Researchers have many demands on their time, and career progression typically emphasises publication in academic journals or other scholarly publications. Preparing research evidence for lay audiences may not be a priority, or may not be an activity for which many researchers find time. Increasingly, however, research funding agencies require evidence that this has been done. Establishing research uptake management as a core function of the university may therefore offer a solution, providing an organisation- level capacity to help get the work of individual researchers and research teams to potential beneficiaries. At present the staff responsible for these activities within universities may lack specific skills and expertise, or may lack the professional status within the institution to take a lead in this area. Professionalising this activity as research uptake management, and providing opportunities for formal accreditation, is designed to build confidence and capacity in the area within individual universities.