One of the main points that I took away from the workshop is that communicating your science to policy makers isn’t as difficult as you might think! One of the first things we did at the workshop was an exercise that involved identifying barriers and challenges that people face when engaging with policy making processes, and it was quite reassuring to find that most of these challenges identified were common to many researchers at the workshop. As the day went on, it became apparent that these barriers can be overcome and that there are actually many routes to communicate research to policy makers. One relatively straightforward way of doing this is through responding to calls for evidence in select committee inquiries, and several of the workshop’s speakers encouraged us to do this. Evidence submitted from outside organisations and members of the public is used to scrutinise the content of a Bill. Communicating one’s research through this channel means it is included in the evidence base for policy making. A list of current inquiries for the Science and Technology Committee can be found here, so if you are interested, keep an eye out for inquiries relevant to your research.
From the workshop, I got the sense that it is a time of change at the science-policy interface. Policy is becoming increasingly evidence based, with politicians embracing science rather than overlooking it. This transition was nicely summed up in a quote from Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Adviser to the European Commission, on Radio 4s Life Scientific a few weeks ago (you can catch the whole interview on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03y0qcr):
“My colleagues within the European Commission, many of whom never thought they would have to pay attention to science or had a very relaxed attitude towards evidence….I notice that they are now identifying opportunities for evidence because a policy based on evidence is easy to defend, robust, it will last a longer time”
The workshop also drove home the need to link research to the wider world, with funding becoming increasingly focused on research that has economic and societal impact. So even if your area of research isn’t directly related to policy, it’s important to make these connections to wider world issues.
All in all, an educational and enjoyable day out for the SiP ladies!
By Kim Mullins
Kim is a PhD student in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield. Follow her on Twitter @kim_1801