Reflections on getting your science into policy
Chelsea Fletcher and Rosie Baillie, MSc students at the University of Edinburgh, highlights from attending a Scottish Policy Group policy training workshop.
I attended the policymaking training day as it was a topic I hadn’t covered in much detail in the modules I’d taken during my masters. In the first hour, we heard from speakers with different roles relating to policymaking about their experiences and advice – which was a really engaging way to introduce the topic.
We were then set a group exercise to summarise a journal article into a one-minute elevator pitch, which we gave to Graeme Dey MSP, Convenor of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLR) at the Scottish Parliament that afternoon. All of our papers related in some way to issues faced by this committee so Graeme was able to talk to us about the history and current situation regarding these topics. As Convenor, Graeme was also able to speak with us about topics we have covered during our masters and elaborate on what we’d learned earlier.
As someone with very little knowledge of policymaking, the training day gave me a good introduction to the topic and understanding of the different roles involved in policymaking.
I am currently writing my dissertation and this training day gave me some ideas for talking points about policy that I now plan on mentioning in my discussion, which I may not have considered had it not been for this training day.
Attending a science-policy interface training day has been on my list of wants for the last several years. Having worked in the environmental sector previously, I was aware of the amount of influence policy has on projects and funding, but I didn’t understand the interaction between science and policy. This training day helped me understand policy better and how scientists can better interact with politicians to get more science based policies.
Learning how to present a quick overview of a comprehensive topic and what strategies to utilize to clearly get a viewpoint across was something that everyone can take away for their everyday life – whether or not we end up in politics.
The day was broken up into 5 parts – introduction to science policy, turning science into policy, influencing policy and getting messages across, a group exercise, and meeting with Graeme Dey MSP- each of which built upon one another to round out our learning. Most of the participants had little to no understanding of how the Scottish Government worked and how policies were made so having a quick history lesson along with how science is incorporated was extremely beneficial. How to turn science into policy was getting deeper into how best to interact and the different approaches to take, which was then reiterated when we learned how best to get a message across and that the same technique will not work for every policymaker. This was best demonstrated in the group activity which took four different scientific papers and had groups of students pair down the main messages into a ‘1-minute elevator pitch’. This pitch was then practiced once in front everyone before heading to Parliament to try them on Graeme Dey MSP.
Presenting our pitches to Graeme and receiving feedback on what worked and what didn’t was the most beneficial part of the exercise. Each paper had a different feel, as well as all the students presenting in a different way, so each was unique and had different critiques and feedback from Graeme on what worked and what could be improved. Learning how to present a quick overview of a comprehensive topic and what strategies to utilize to clearly get a viewpoint across was something that everyone can take away for their everyday life- whether or not we end up in politics.
Chelsea and Rosie are MSc students at the University of Edinburgh and contacted the BES to request policy training.
The Scottish Policy Group will be hosting its annual policy training event in Edinburgh on 13 November 2018.
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