Policy & Knowledge Exchange day highlights

On the 4 March 2016 the BES held a Policy and Knowledge Exchange training day at the University of Liverpool. About 30 PhD students attended as part of the doctoral training programme of ACCE (Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment), the partnership between the University of Sheffield, York, Leeds and NERC’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH).

The day included a combination of practical tasks such as the “Tweet your PhD challenge”, won by Melanie Brien, interspersed with excellent presentations from guest speakers including Naomi Weir from CaSE, Andrew Miller Former Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Jonny Wentorth from the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) and Sarah Blackford, Head of Education and Public Affairs at the Society for Experimental Biology.

The day was a great success with some very positive feedback, especially with regards to the presentations but the quality of the cake served at lunch also received a couple of mentions. The event will be held again next year. The highlights from the day included:

Sarah Blackford spoke about the importance of communicating your research in the media with the premise that “If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist”. Take away messages included:

  • Your research can reach the media via press releases from your university, scientific journal or conference but journalists might also pick up a story from EurekAlert!
  • A press release, or article, is not the same as an abstract. The rules of engagement are: 1. Begin with a catchy, fun title; 2. Think about your opening line- strong statements and questions are popular; 3. Say what’s new, timely and important about your research early on- don’t build up to it; 4. Find a great picture.

Andrew Miller spoke about the Science and Technology Committee and how to influence science in government. His tops tips were:

  • Submit written evidence to inquiries
  • Suggest witnesses for oral evidence
  • Suggest ideas for inquiries (a “long list” is kept and under regular review)
  • Engage with your MP

Jonny Wentworth spoke about the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology and presented us with the diagram below showing the key governmental and external bodies that provide, review and scrutinise evidence. He noted that policy decisions are not only informed by evidence but also cost implications, ethics and morals, public acceptability and politics.