Engagement, communication, dissemination, and knowledge utilisation: what is the difference?

Impact is becoming increasingly prominent in scientific grant applications. With this development, more and more terminology emerges into the application forms that is hard to dissociate, especially for fundamental scientists. In previous blogs we already discussed impact and stakeholders, now we move on from there: what exactly is the difference between engagement and communication with your stakeholders and dissemination and knowledge utilisation?


In an impact-oriented research project, it is important to not only throw your scientific findings out into the world and hope that someone will pick them up. You need to think in advance about how best to implement your findings, already during the planning (co-design) and execution (co-creation) of your project. You cannot do this alone; you need insights and network connections from your stakeholders. The early involvement and reciprocal participation of stakeholders is called stakeholder engagement.


Communication can take place in different ways. It can be two-sided, such as in a workshop, webinar or discussion group, or it is one-sided, for example in (social) media. One-sided communication is often referred to as dissemination. The difference is that when designing communication activities, you actively think about who you want to reach, what you want to achieve with the activity, and how you can involve this stakeholder. Insights from communication provide insights for both parties and could be used to adjust the research programme, but that is not necessary. With dissemination, you often have little insight into who you reach and what effect that has, so dissemination strategies are often more general and not reciprocal.

Knowledge utilisation

All impact-focused activities that you plan within your project, whether that is engagement, communication, or dissemination, are part of your knowledge utilisation plan. It is important to consider all these layers of involvement of stakeholders by clearly devising your plan and detailing it in your grant application. For example, how are you going to involve and inform patients? Have interest groups been able to provide input into your research design? And are there concrete plans to inform governments about the outcomes and possible policy adjustments?

Need help?

Drawing up your impact plan is not easy. It takes time, creativity, and a lot of discussions with stakeholders. Do you need help with this? Let us know: we understand the how and why of knowledge utilisation and impact in a grant application very well and are happy to help you!


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