Policy engagement is becoming more of a priority in academic life, as emphasis shifts from focusing purely on academic outputs to creating impact from research. Research impact is defined by UKRI as ‘the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy’.
In 2019 the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (IEU) held its first Engagers’ Lunch event, which focused on policy engagement. Joined by Dr Alisha Davies, Head of Research from Public Health Wales, Dr Laura Howe, Professor Debbie Lawlor and Dr Lindsey Pike from the IEU facilitated discussion drawing on their experiences – from both sides of the table – of connecting research and policy.
The benefits of engaging with policy & how to do it
The challenges of engaging with policy & how to navigate them
There are no guarantees in policy engagement work, and a level of realism is required around what findings from one study can achieve. Policymaking is a complex and messy process; the evidence base is just one factor in decision making. Your recommendations may not be taken up because of politics, resource issues, or other concerns taking priority. Sometimes your relationships will reach honourable dead ends, where you realise that interests, capacity or timescales are not as aligned as you thought. Knowing this before you start is important to avoid feeling disillusioned.
In summary, the panel concluded that policymakers are interested in academic research as long as their priorities are addressed. While outcomes are not guaranteed, our colleagues at PolicyBristol advise a strategy of ‘engineered serendipity’ – looking for and capitalising on opportunities, being ready to talk about your research in a clear and policy orientated way (why does your research matter and what are the key recommendations?) and aim to build long term and trusting relationships with policymakers.
PolicyBristol aims to enhance the influence and impact of research from across the University of Bristol on policy and practice at the local, national and international level.
Public Health Wales Research and Evaluation work collaboratively across Public Health Wales and with external academic and partner organisations, and are keen to facilitate research links across Public Health Wales with new national and international partners.
Research impact at the UK Parliament ‘Everything you need to know to engage with UK Parliament as a researcher’
Parliamentary research services across the legislatures include:
· House of Commons Library: an independent research and information unit. It provides impartial information for Members of Parliament of all parties and their staff.
· Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology: Parliament’s in-house source of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of public-policy issues related to science and technology.
· Research and Information Service (RaISe): aims to meet the information needs of the Northern Ireland Assembly Members, their staff and the secretariat in an impartial, objective, timely and non-partisan manner.
· Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe): the internal parliamentary research service for Members of the Scottish Parliament.
· Senedd Research: an expert, impartial and confidential research and information service designed to meet the needs of Wales’ National Assembly Members and their staff.
This blog post was originally posted on IEUREKA! See the original blog post here.
Dr Alisha Davies is Head of Research from Public Health Wales, Dr Laura Howe, Prof Debbie Lawlor and Dr Lindsey Pike are from the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol (IEU), and brought together researcher, knowledge broker and policymaker perspectives for this piece.