Science into Policy: We host a “How To”
This week we hosted our Policy Training Workshop in collaboration with Sarah Cruise and Jackie Wrout from Psyccess – who expertly facilitated the event! The workshop was aimed at those working within science and research who had an interest in gaining the knowledge and skills to effectively engage with policy and decision makers and find out how to best communicate their science to these audiences.
The workshop informed attendees about the policy making process, when the most effective time to have a voice is and ways to communicate their science in interesting and novel ways. The day began by gathering everyone together to write down on post-it notes the challenges or barriers they face when engaging with policy processes. After 10 minutes the wall was full and set a big task for us to try to address the numerable problems people felt they faced in one day! These barriers included not understanding how policy making actually works, knowing who to engage with and how to communicate the complexity and uncertainty of their scientific research.
But, challenge accepted, the day kicked off with Sasha Leigh (NERC) who introduced the concepts of science-policy interfaces and gave good ideas of where to engage in policy, both through taking advantage of current platforms or by using schemes that organisations such as NERC and the BES provide. Jonny Wentworth (Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology) then presented his view of UK policy making, giving the inside scoop and giving some best practice tips for how to communicate science effectively.
Following this, Richard Benwell (RSPB) spoke about how to keep up with developing policy and highlighted skills and resources that could be used for scanning the science policy horizon. His key tip was to get in early with the decision making process to be most effective in your communications. This session was followed by a talk from Andrew Pullin, Director of Centre for Evidence Based Conservation, who spoke about packaging evidence and his involvement with the Collaboration for Environmental Evidence. Helen Bayliss of Imperial College London was next up, who was recently called to give evidence at a select committee inquiry on invasive species. Helen shared her account of the process, experience and how she got involved.
Interspersed between speakers were exercises that were constructed to assist participants to utilise the information they had gained from speakers and put it into practice. Some exciting discussions were created in this time and gave attendees an indication of where their strengths and weaknesses lie when it comes to communicating their research. Attendees learned how to engage policy makers through communicating complex ideas (using speech and illustratively), perfecting the appropriate language for different audiences and discovering how to relate specialised science to everyday topics – such as a box of chocolates! These activities were met with much enthusiasm, especially when chocolate was at stake…
Throughout the day it was essential to keep referring back to the ‘wall of challenges’ we had created at the beginning to ensure we kept on track and felt that we were addressing these issues. Sarah and Jackie did a great job to voice possible solutions to these challenges, and the day concluded by bringing everyone together to further discuss targets and strategies of how to combat these challenges and evaluate the steps they had to take and skills they had to obtain and develop moving forward. The pub soon beckoned and we had a well deserved pint to reflect on the day and wait for trains home.
Overall, what a wonderful day! It was great to see so many passionate people who wanted to find out how to communicate their science and influence policy decisions, and hopefully everyone learnt a lot from the day. According to Twitter people seemed to like it…
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