The communication and uptake of research is a messy business for which there is no clear formula, though it is clear is that routes to impact need to be improved. Without a greater focus on getting research into use, that potential for improving lives through research and innovation will not be fully realised. Research funders have a role to play in encouraging maximum impact from the research they fund, including its influence on their own policies and programming: this is particularly important as funding gets tighter.
However, one of the challenges of organising an international workshop on research communication and uptake is that it is a comparatively new field. This means that different people use different languages when talking about similar concerns, and that there is no settled model around which discussions can be focused. The purpose of this background paper, then, is to briefly outline some of the different languages and models that are used, to draw from some recent case studies and reports on research communication and uptake, and to identify the main questions that need to be answered so that everyone begins to share a common understanding of how to make progress. The paper is designed to be generally relevant to all who have an interest in improving the impact of development research on policy and practice: policymakers, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, the private sector, think tanks, researchers, research communicators and other intermediaries.