The paper reports on a research project exploring the change in the organizational context of communicators and communication units in higher education and research institutions (HERIs), the importance of informal processes within their daily work and the great diversity of expectations communicators have to tackle.
Based on a literature review, a mixed-methods study combining expert interviews with 54 German HERI heads of communication units, an online-survey and a document analysis of organizational characteristics was conducted. Findings were validated in four focus groups.
The study illuminates the impact of organizational and operational structures of HERIs on communicators and their boundary spanning activities. Due to varying expectations of stakeholders, communicators constantly have to switch roles. Members of HERIs' executive boards affect status and working conditions for communicators in the organization.
Interviews with other HERI actors, especially members of the executive board, are proposed to get more thorough insights into the organizational context of HERIs and the mutual expectations of different internal stakeholders.
Insights from the project may help HERI actors to reflect their organizational context and to identify potentially contentious structures or processes.
Communicating science sometimes clashes with complex organizational and operational structures. Despite the “organizational turn” in HERI research, there is a lack of data on the relation between communicators, their communication units and the larger organizational context. The exploratory study addresses this gap.
Gratefully funded by the Volkswagen Foundation
Schwetje, T., Hauser, C., Böschen, S. and Leßmöllmann, A. (2020), "Communicating science in higher education and research institutions: An organization communication perspective on science communication", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 189-205. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-06-2019-0094
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