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Jun 16, 2020 Commentary
Lessons from Laos: selecting appropriate communication media for context

by Wesley Ward

Current agricultural research depends on complex contexts that can impose major barriers for communication within geographically dispersed research teams. Such barriers are multiplied where team members originate from and operate in contrasting cultures and economic circumstances. A case study based in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) showed how to identify such barriers between Lao and Australian scientists using transcripts of 30 interviews with these groups. These were analysed using grounded theory analysis to identify these barriers which were operationalised to construct an assessment tool — I-CHET. This tool was subsequently applied to nine online communication technologies used by the interviewees to identify the technology that displayed the fewest problems regarding these barriers — email, and those with the most problems — websites and Skype. The study highlighted the complexity of communication barriers for international research teams, beyond economic and online infrastructural constraints, to include individual and cultural differences as well as language. By addressing these differences, project managers and funding agencies can maximise the benefits from research completed by international teams that provide vital agricultural knowledge and methodologies for many developing countries worldwide.

Volume 19 • Issue 03 • 2020