Like many academics, University of Manitoba prof Noralou Roos has stifled a gasp, or two, when reading news articles on public health policy. “We would read something in a newspaper,” she says, “And be frustrated that some of our evidence, or findings, wouldn’t be reported.”
Then, one day, someone asked Roos why she was so surprised — typically, Ross says the friend pointed out, academics write for academics, and publish in academic journals. Not always the stuff of riveting reporting for journalists.
“I realized [we’d] never done anything about it,” says Roos. And, so the idea for EvidenceNetwork.ca was born.
The site, which is Roos’s brain child and was created under her direction, is funded by a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research and the Manitoba Health Research Council, with additional support from the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation.
Launched this week, the site is designed to provide on-call experts on health policy issues for Canadian journalists, plus a whole slew of other resources. Roos says she consulted with many journalists (both active and retired) and geared the site directly to their demands.
“What I wanted to know was what topics you [journalists] would like us to help you with,” she says. The answer she heard most often: direct access.
Roos has currently recruited about 30 respected and non-partisan academics (all available via the site’s directory) who have pledged to respond to journalists within 2-3 hours.
In addition to other resources available on the site, such as academic research, Roos hopes this will enable journalists to better report on complex issues, such as “the idea that there’s this aging tsunami that’s going to destroy the health care system.”
When you look at all the research surrounding the so-called aging baby boomer crisis, the story can start to look different, says Roos. It’s not that journalists have been reporting the wrong facts, she adds, but that they don’t have all the breadth and context of research that an academic has.
Evidence Network is designed to help journalists overcome this hurdle. “You guys are really good at communicating,” says Roos. “That’s what we’re trying to do,” says Roos, communicate better and help journalists communicate, as well.
Check out the site at www.EvidenceNetwork.ca
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