SPRE webinar on working with policymakers

16 June 2020

On the 12th June, Nick Bibby, Director of the Scottish Policy and Research Exchange, led an online discussion with over 20 Innogen and OU Scotland researchers on how to engage with the world of policy.

During the one-and-a-half-hour webinar, Bibby provided some practical tips to help academics establish and build relationships with the policy community.

He emphasized the importance of focusing on the policy question, which in most cases is not the same as the research question. Policymakers are not necessarily looking for a particular piece of research but rather, an expert’s opinion.

But how does one get their attention? One of the first considerations is targeting the right organisation and within that, the right person. This may be government or parliamentary researchers, or representatives of other public bodies or agencies that also influence policy, such as local authorities and NGOs.

Timing is another important factor to consider. Ideally, academic researchers should provide input early-on in the process and contribute to frame the debate. Once a position has been adopted, it is harder to influence policy.

It is key that any research is put in the right context. It must apply to or be applicable to the country or region in question.

Last, but not least, the research should be tailored to a policy audience. It needs to be relevant, clear, and brief. As Bibby pointed out, “you need to get someone’s’ attention first; they can always ask for more details later”. There are many ways through which academics can provide timely policy-relevant information. Blog posts, responding to government or parliamentary inquiries, using social media, were some of the approaches discussed.

To expand the evidence base and range of expert voices available to the policy community, the SPRE has  launched the Brokerage, a network of knowledge brokers at all Scottish HEIs. By acting as a bridge between the worlds of policy and research, members of the network can feed in directly to policy discussions ranging from marine spatial planning to the economic impact of Covid-19. 

The session was highly informative, and the discussion was very lively and helpful. Engaging with policy makers is both interesting and useful. Influencing policy and practice through our research is crucial for changing the world towards the better,“ said Innogen’s Director, Theo Papaioannou.


Find out more about SPRE and joining the Brokerage here: