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Communicating Economic Concepts and Research in a Challenging Environment

John Davis

Journal of Agricultural Economics, 2018, vol. 69, issue 3, 591-605

Abstract: This address explores the communication challenges facing the economics profession and agri‐food and rural economists in particular against a background of reputational damage to the profession and an apparent loss of trust in experts. It argues that a common thread linking many of the challenges is the need for more effective models of communication so that our economic concepts, ideas and research findings can be more timely, better understood and, most importantly, have greater impact. Five important challenges are examined: loss of trust in experts; emotions and decision making; the role of the media; the roles of agri‐food and rural economists; and competition from other disciplines and interests. A good practice communications framework is then proposed embodying ten important communication principles: understanding the target audience; understanding the political context of decision makers; generating a robust evidence base; building reputation and credibility; need for cross disciplinary working; consulting with stakeholder groups; getting the timing right; producing high quality presentations; making use of social media; and being prepared for challenges. Four stereotypical categories of communication incorporating different standards of rigour and relevance are identified: Ivory tower; Gold Standard; Populist; and Quicksand. Responses by the Agricultural Economics Society and the European Association of Agricultural Economists to the need for more accessible communications via the development of the innovative outreach journal EuroChoices are outlined.

Date: 2018
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