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This is a diagram of a football field. There are two teams, yellow smiley faces on the left and blue frowny faces on the right. The yellow ball carrier is around the left five yard line.

Research Communication: Go for the Touchdown!

Hey, friends! College football kicked off last weekend,* and the NFL season starts next week. That makes it the perfect time to share my favorite football analogy.**

Picture this:

Your rival team (blue) kicks off. Your (yellow) team’s punt returner catches the ball on the 1-yard line and takes off on a frenzied dash down the field.

This is a diagram of a football field. There are two teams, yellow smiley faces on the left and blue frowny faces on the right. The yellow ball carrier is around the left five yard line.

Your 35-yard line: A rival defender comes charging like an only-slightly-miniature rhinoceros, but one of your players manages to hold him off.

This is a diagram of a football field. There are two teams, yellow smiley faces on the left and blue frowny faces on the right. The yellow ball carrier is around the left thirty-five yard line.

Their 47-yard line: A rival defender makes a flying lunge at your receiver but comes up short and gets a mask full of turf.

This is a diagram of a football field. There are two teams, yellow smiley faces on the left and blue frowny faces on the right. The yellow ball carrier is around the right forty-seven yard line.

Their 9-yard line: “He could! Go! All! The! Waaaaait a minute…” The receiver trips, juggles, stumbles, bobbles until…

This is a diagram of a football field. There are two teams, yellow smiley faces on the left and blue frowny faces on the right. The yellow ball carrier is around the right nine yard line.

Their 1-yard line: …he finally crashes to the ground. Then he pops up, does his trademark shimmy, and collects jubilant chest bumps from his teammates. The hometown crowd is going wild, and the owner feels a little bit better about the wide receiver’s recent $100M contract.

This is a diagram of a football field. There are two teams, yellow smiley faces on the left and blue frowny faces on the right. The yellow ball carrier is around the right one yard line.

It’s now first and goal…

Your coach calls out the field goal unit, they make the kick, and everyone walks off the field and heads for the showers.

If you know anything about football, you know that in all but a narrow set of scenarios, this would never happen. YOU GO FOR THE TOUCHDOWN!

But I see this happen often in the research space. A research team has important goals for their research. They spend, sometimes, many years and millions of dollars to design a study, carry it out, and analyze the data.

Then they limit themselves to publishing in peer-reviewed journals. Or they throw together scientific conference presentations on the flights to those conferences. Or they write 100-page, black and white, text-only scientific reports in 12-point, double-spaced Times New Roman with 1-inch margins.

You have great findings! The world needs to hear about them! Don’t settle for a field goal and walk off the field!

Admittedly, the end of a research study can be harrowing. You may be running out of time. You may be running out of funds. You may be trying to get your next great study funded and launched. That can make it awfully hard to score a research communication touchdown.

The solution? Call in Data Soapbox from the bench! We can be the team member who keeps the communication ball moving toward the endzone, even when you can’t always be in the stadium. We’d love to help you create compelling presentations, reports, and other products that get your insights into the hands of people who can use them to do good in the world.

Shout out to my dear friend, Dr. Lindsay H. Ryan, adult development researcher and football fan extraordinaire. She kindly previewed this post and corrected my errors in football terminology.

*Go Tribe!

**Not a huge football fan? Feel free to skip down and start reading just after the pictures.

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