Policy engagement

Scottish Parliament engagement

SPICe has been working together with colleagues from the House of Commons, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly to produce a ‘Research Impact in Legislatures’ briefing that describes the work of legislatures and the ways that research is used.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) have just published the SPICe style and writing guide.  The guide includes:

  • Plain language writing techniques and tips
  • Dealing with jargon and business terms
  • Deadling with parliamentary terminology

UK Parliament engagement

Committee inquiries: Open calls for evidence

You don’t need to have all the answers. Academic contributions which address any aspects of an inquiry you feel qualified to comment on are very welcome.

Some tips on responding to inquiries

Before communicating

  • Have it clear in your mind what you want to achieve through the communication
  • Know what your core message is

When communicating

  • Make sure the information is structured with headings and bullet points and no more than one page.
  • Identify which aspect of the inquiry you are addressing.
  • Pitch information at an intelligent, non-specialist audience
  • Give indication of your credibility – in one or two sentences, your background
  • Make it clear how the research is relevant to Parliament / Government and society and why now 
  • Make it clear what you want policymakers to do with the information
  • Have a hook, be concise and use charts and images to break up text
  • Consider framing as ‘(problem)/solution’
  • Storytelling is a powerful tool

Get involved and have Research Impact at the UK Parliament.

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) runs several fellowship schemes with Research Councils, learned societies and charities. Through these schemes, academics are sponsored to spend time working in Parliament. Some fellowships are also open to post-doctoral researchers in academia and industry.

Types of fellowships

Fellowships open to PhD students

These are schemes that enable PhD students to spend (usually) three months working at POST. Most fellows will research, write and publish a POSTnote during their time with us, but some fellows have instead been placed with a parliamentary Select Committee or Library.

Fellowships open to academics with PhDs

Open to academics working in different subject areas and at all career levels. Academics can apply to work on a project proposed by a department in Parliament or, submit a project of their choosing. Fellowships can be between one to twelve months in duration.

Further information

Other ways to engage with the UK Parliament are available on their webpages and via Twitte as well as the R

Researcher experiences are also available – including one from colleagues in Philosophy!


Planning policy engagement

Engagement with policy is best considered before a project even begins, in the planning process, through discussions with stakeholders. However, even at the end of a project, you can still plan effective ways of bringing your message to people who can make a difference.

Policy objectives

  • What message are you communicating and what is your evidence?
  • What are the implications for policy change?
    Hint: Be concise, understandable and relevant. Prepare a briefing paper with summary and distilled information so misrepresentation is minimized, i.e. try to provide an end product.

Audience

  • Who in government or amongst opinion leaders can influence the relevant policies, i.e. who are you trying to influence?
  • Where are the opportunities for delivering your message?
    Hint: Work out the level of pitch required and make the first contact count.

Promotion

  • How can the information best be delivered?
  • When is the best time to present it?
    Hint: Build on strengths and don’t over cite. Applied and interdisciplinary research are important when addressing policy issues.

Policy engagement tools, guides and training

Getting involved with policy

  • ‘Upstream engagement’ is a type of top-down engagement with the public, facilitated by academics on behalf of government and the industries involved in the development of new technologies. It involves deliberative methods such as focus groups, citizen juries and other forums for in-depth discussions concerning new technologies such as nanotechnology, synthetic biology and climate geoengineering. Further information: Corporate Watch, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement
  • The Industry & Parliament Trust is an independent, non-lobbying and non-partisan charity that provides unique platforms of engagement between Parliament and UK business.
  • The Westminster Higher Education Forum aims to provide the premier environment for policymakers in Parliament, Whitehall and government agencies to engage with key stakeholders in timely discussion on higher education policy. These include university and college leaders; academics and other higher education professionals; representatives from students’ unions; businesses and their advisors; interest groups and the voluntary sector; along with commentators and members of the reporting press.
  • Parliamentary Outreach spreads awareness of the work, processes and relevance of the institution of Parliament, encouraging greater engagement between the public and the House of Commons and House of Lords. Additional links: UK Parliament, Parliamentary CommitteesUK Government, and Non-Departmental Public Bodies (quangos)
  • Government Policy Knowledge Briefings Policy Knowledge provides a series of in-depth, policy-led briefings and forums for the public, private and third sectors. With a focus on creating an environment where key issues can be examined and explored, Policy Knowledge brings together key policy makers, shapers and stakeholders involved in public policy to debate and discuss key issues.
  • Scottish Parliament. Responding to Scottish government current consultations or committee business is another way that you can get involved. Additional links: Scottish ParliamentCommittees, and Scottish Government
  • Scotland’s Future Forum was created by the Scottish Parliament to help its Members, along with policy makers, businesses, academics, and the wider community of Scotland, look beyond immediate horizons, to some of the challenges and opportunities we will face in the future. It is non-party political and is setting up placements for academics to sit in Parliament and Members of Parliament to engage with universities. SFF aims to create dialogue between researchers, MSPs and their communities so that current research can be taken into account when policy decisions are being made.
  • Fife People’s Panel is a group of volunteers working to improve Fife by giving their opinions and observations on a variety of public issues. Organised by Fife Partnership, the Panel co-ordinates consultation exercises to prevent duplication of effort by organisations and results in higher than normal response rates.

Policy engagement information from research councils

RCUK Research Councils UK aims to influence a wide range of policy makers in order to help create a positive environment for future research. We use evidence based information to inform our policies and in turn, use our policies to influence researchers and policy makers.
 AHRC  Arts & Humanities Research Council has published policy publications advice and guidance, Guidance on planning and demonstrating effective policy engagement, which provides advice to arts and humanities researchers on planning how to engage with policy makers.
 ESRC  Economic and Social Research Council have sites dedicated to working with the public sector, such as engagement with parliament, government departments and the devolved administrations.
 MRC The MRC has played a leading role in critical areas of research and subsequent policy and strategy development, from our public health work on obesity and smoking to the establishment of UK Biobank.
 NERC Natural Environment Research Council have published a booklet, Science into Policy: Taking part in the process, that explains key aspects of the UK policy-making process and gives links to some important information sources.