Communication in research applications

Last changed: 02 March 2023

When you write your research application, what communication and societal value elements do you need to think about? To help you, we have compiled questions and tips tailored to the annual Formas open call.

Societal relevance and research communication go hand in hand – communication is one of the tools used to make results accessible so society can benefit from them. When submitting a research application, you will need to show why your project is relevant to society and how it interacts with other players, and in turn, how these players will benefit from your project.

When creating these tips, we went through several previous Formas applications and picked out the common themes from those that were successful.

We focused on three areas of the application, relevance to society, communicating with stakeholders and the popular science summary.

Societal relevance

Your application needs to demonstrate a clear relevance to society and create an understanding on why the project is needed. Relate to regional, national, or international visions, strategies and goals such as Agenda 2030, the food strategy, Policy for Designed Living Environment, and so on. Provide statistics and references, both local and global, depending on the project’s characteristics.

  • Why is the project important? What is the background and the need for this project? And why now? What happens if the projekt is not implemented?
  • What is the potential to contribute to sustainable development?
  • How long will the societal benefits last, are they short or long-term, or both?
  • Why are you the best person/people for the project? Demonstrate your academic competence and networks. Much of this information is included in a CV, but select and include the most important and relevant elements that reinforce your possibilities.

Planned communication

Once you have addressed the social relevance, it’s time to think about communication and make a plan.

Target groups – who do you need to communicate with?

Which actors can benefit from research results or enable their future use in society? Who do you need to communicate with to make sure you can achieve your goals? These are your target groups.

These may include consumers, end consumers, practicians, associations, decision makers, advisors, students and researchers. Be clear and concise! Does your project involve school playgrounds? Show that you intend to reach out to the relevant decision makers (e.g., municipal education authorities and the Swedish Association of School Principals and Directors of Education) and demonstrate you will have an exchange with them.

Show which target groups you need to maintain an exchange with throughout the research process, and not just once they receive the results. There are stakeholders that can be beneficial to cooperate with for you and your project while the project is ongoing, so highlight them.

Give examples and explain terminology and Swedish names such as the Board of Agriculture, the Rural Economy and Agricultural Societies – the person reading your application may not be familiar with the system in Sweden, meaning you will need to explain why these are significant.

Purpose and objectives – why will you communicate and what do you want to achieve?

You will then need to think about what you want to achieve through communication with these target groups. Different target groups have different needs and will be involved in different ways.

  • What does each target group need to know? What do you want to say to them – what are your messages?
  • Do you want to create interest? Create knowledge transfer? Change attitudes? Or maybe contribute to someone doing something?

Describe the needs of the target group and show how you can effectively reach them. For example if you want farmers to cultivate their soil differently, you show that you can reach these target groups by participating in conferences or seminars where your target audiences may be in attendance, such as Borgeby Fältdagar and sharing your research with advisors and farmers at an industry conference.

Don’t forget to elaborate on any Swedish references for the benefit of international assessors so they can understand how you want to reach your target group.

Formas highlight three communication dimensions, information, customised messages and co-creation, which are worth keeping in mind when planning communication.

Channels - how do you reach your target group?

Your choice of media is determined by your communication aims and message strategies. Show you know where your target groups are and how you can reach them. Feel free to use evidence.

Where does your target group go for information? Creating websites or issuing press releases are becoming increasingly common ways of spreading information. Although maybe a meeting with an association, a personal call, or video conference would be more successful? Perhaps a film on YouTube or a thrilling post on LinkedIn? Discussions and interaction are always more efficient than one-way communication.

  • How will you gain quality in your contacts with the target groups? Do you need a broad or a selective outreach? Is it important to be rapid? Or to be able to recall or change the information? Do you need to communicate in a certain space to reach your target group?
  • List the networks you are involved in or would like to be part of. Mention the other projects you or your co-applicants are participating in and how they can collaborate with the project in the application to achieve a greater goal. Are you involved in something else, such as an EU project, collaborative centre, etc., where the projects can benefit from each other? Then include this information to demonstrate the relevance of your project from a wider perspective. Perhaps these will help you reach your target groups.

Time and resources – when will you communicate and what is your budget?

Now you know what and how you want to communicate to your target groups, but when within the project period should the communication take place?

  • Does the project have any major milestones or planned activities? Prior to and in connection with these, communication activities may be relevant.
  • Is the project dependent on communication in the form of dialogues or meetings? Don't forget to schedule these.
  • Does something particular happen during the project period? Perhaps there are contexts in which you can benefit from associating with? For example at conferences, trade fairs or during holidays.
  • What resources do you need in the form of skills and money to realise your communication? Is there time set aside for communication? Will you plan to manage the communication yourself or use a service? Are you planning to organise communication activities costing money and have you budgeted for these?

Each project is unique. Use your project as a starting point and try to be specific about who you want to communicate with, why, and how. Check that you have explained how you will be communicating with your target groups to see if your research is relevant to society.

Last but not least, plan and budget for communication that is feasible.

Popular science summary

The popular science summary provides readers with a chance to learn about your project. Remember to place emphasis on your project and its contribution to societal value early on in the text.

Keep plain language in mind. Be clear and concise, and make sure your information is easy to understand. Your reader may have a scientific background, but it is unlikely that they will be familiar with your specialisation. The majority of readers will not have a scientific background, so make it simple for them to understand how your project is relevant to society. Keep specialist terminology to a minimum and provide explanations if it is used. Never use Google translate for your final version. Ask a colleague to read through your text, or even better, ask an outsider.

Best of luck with your application!



Relevance – why is your project important to society?

Target group – in order to reach societal relevance, whom do you need to communicate with or have an exchange with?

Purpose and aims – why do you need to communicate with them? What do you want to achieve with the communication?

Channel – how will you reach your target groups? Explain your choices.

Time and resources – when will you plan communication activities and how is resources distributed before, during and after the project?

Popular science summary – generate interest in your project and think about how you write.