VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Research Dissemination

Questions or Suggestions?

Hillary Miller
Cabell Library, 121-C
(804) 827-0462

Why this guide?

Many argue that it is an ethical obligation to ensure that research findings are disseminated in a timely, understandable and responsible manner to those who could benefit from the knowledge.* Yet, despite the considerable resources devoted to research, the transfer of research findings beyond scientific publication is often slow and haphazard.** This gap impedes research discoveries from impacting practice, policy change and the general public.***

Successful community engaged research goes beyond strengthening partnerships and conducting research. It involves disseminating the findings within the discipline and in the community.


*Brownson, R. C., Royer, C., Ewing, R., & McBride, T. D. (2006). Researchers and policymakers: travelers in parallel universes. American journal of preventive medicine, 30(2), 164-172.

**Graham, I. D., Logan, J., Harrison, M. B., Straus, S. E., Tetroe, J., Caswell, W., & Robinson, N. (2006). Lost in knowledge translation: time for a map?.Journal of continuing education in the health professions, 26(1), 13-24.

***Chen, P. G., Diaz, N., Lucas, G., & Rosenthal, M. S. (2010). Dissemination of results in community-based participatory research. American journal of preventive medicine, 39(4), 372-378.

Why create a dissemination plan?

There are a number of reasons to create a dissemination plan:

  • Applying for a grant and need a research guide? Dissemination plans are required in many grants.

  • Wanting to share your process or findings with and beyond the academic community.

  • Connecting with others who share key areas of research interest and those who may enhance your research by providing new ideas.

  • Enhancing usability of research by other researchers as well as end users.

  • Sharing research with the public as a part of our mission as a public research university.

  • Developing and a disseminating a body of work that creates depth in the field, facilitates tenor, allows faculty to be expert source of research area.

Dissemination planning can help expand your thinking about what research you share, how you share it, and who you share it with. Planning can also help expand access to your research, and ultimately, increase its impact. 

In his seminal book on open access publishing, John Willinsky (2005) argues for what he calls The Access Principle:

A commitment to the value and quality of research carries with it a responsibility to extend the circulation of such work as far as possible and ideally to all who are interested in it and all who might profit by it (p. xii).

Willinsky goes on to state that advances in computer-mediated communications mean that a commitment to the access principle now necessitates embracing these technologies “to do as much as can be done to advance and improve access to research and scholarship” (p. xii).

Willinsky wrote that in 2005, at least a decade before this research guide was developed. In that decade, the modern Web has changed our thinking entirely about knowledge dissemination. Only four years later, in 2009, Clay Shirky wrote:

We are living in the middle of the largest increase in expressive capacity in the history of the human race…more people can communicate more things to more people than has ever been possible in the past, and the size and speed of this increase, from under one million participants to over one billion in a generation, makes the change unprecedented (p. 106).

And, yet, arguably, as of the initial development of this research guide, our scholarly communication practices have changed very little. A number of federal granting agencies and private philanthropies are now mandating open access publishing and/or data sharing for funded research and development, and that is a step forward towards a commitment to Willinsky’s Access Principle.

If VCU is to remain a premier public research university, though, we can and should do more. This research guide is an effort to help researchers think about dissemination planning in ways that embrace the Access Principle and that take advantage of the affordances of the modern Web for modern scholarly communication.