Research is most likely to have policy impact when it is timely, relevant, accessible, of good quality, and where a trusted relationship has been developed between researchers and policymakers. We have a team at Leeds to support researchers to develop the knowledge, skills and relationships to effectively engage with policymakers. Our aim is to strengthen the influence and impact of research from across the University of Leeds on policy design, delivery and impact at local, national and international levels.
There are also many other impact support professionals based in the University’s Schools and Faculties that may be able to support policy engagement activities. Please get in touch and we’ll try to direct you to the most appropriate person.
The Knowledge Exchange Unit (KEU), in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (non-STEM people don’t be put off by the Sci-Tech bit) have put this succinct and comprehensive advice together about the routes for getting research into the UK Parliament. The KEU is Dr Sarah Foxen (@SarahFoxen), Naomi Saint (@NaomiSaintHoP) and Dr Laura Webb. They also tweet as @UKParl_Research (which is great account to follow to get notifications of Select Committee calls for evidence). If you prefer email or indeed speaking to people you can find their details (and the other members of POST) on this contact page.
We have also put together a self-guided resource on Engaging with the UK Parliament (see LinkedIn Learning Policy Collection below).
The UK Parliament Knowledge Exchange Unit (@UKParl_Research) with their colleagues from the devolved administrations have published a briefing on undertaking knowledge exchange activities with legislatures in the UK. It covers:
We have also put together a comprehensive self-guided resource on Engaging with the UK Government (see LinkedIn Learning Policy Collection below). The Government’s own guide for academics in engaging with policy is a shorter starting point but is quite limited as a result.
Since 2017, all government departments now publish Areas of Research Interests (ARIs). This happened as a result of recommendations in the Nurse Review of the Research Councils. The ARIs are owned by the different government departments with a central contact point via the Government Office for Science (Again arts, humanities and social science researchers should not be put off by the ‘Science’ in the title.).
The government also publishes consultations that you can respond to. However, the policy development process may have taken quite some time and therefore you may be too late to significantly affect its trajectory if you only rely on this process. (see the self-guided resource below for more detail on the policy development process).
The Open Innovation Team is part of the Cabinet Office (which supports the Prime Minister in ensuring the effective running of government) and is led by Chris Webber. The OIT aims to ‘help Whitehall departments generate analysis and ideas by deepening collaboration with academics’.
There are loads of online guides about writing policy briefs (Parliament’s and Fast Track Impact’s are just two). But don’t forget that policymakers need to demonstrate that they have taken a range of views on board (one of the reason’s why select committee inquiries in the UK Parliament have calls for evidence and why POSTnotes cite a huge range of views e.g. 158 sources in the Chemical Weapons POSTnote 596). Therefore you should think about the whole body of relevant literature (academic and other) that could contribute to the policy debate, not just your research findings. This process of synthesising evidence is not highly prized in many academic disciplines (systematic reviews in medicine and health areas being one clear exception) but it is highly sought after in the policy world. So don’t forget your literature review, that led into your latest research ideas, could be turned into a really useful output for policy people which could then be added to when your findings emerge. The Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences have a joint project to promote the practice of evidence synthesis and its use within policy circles. The four principles they outline: Inclusive, Rigorous, Accessible and Transparent are really important to follow. Take a look at the report for more information or this Nature Comment article for a shorter introduction. Policy Leeds support researchers in developing policy briefs.
After a look at the literature in this area, these two pieces appeared to be best way into the topic. The first is actually two articles by Professor Paul Cairney and Dr Kathryn Oliver one is called ‘How Should Academics Engage in Policymaking to Achieve Impact?’ (https://doi.org/10.1177/1478929918807714) and the other is called ‘The dos and don’ts of influencing policy: a systematic review of advice to academics’ (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-019-0232-y. This introductory blog on the LSE Impact Blog, gives you a quick way into the 2 articles.
Paul’s blog has loads (perhaps too much for the time-poor) of brilliant articles – especially his 1000 word and 500 word pieces, where he challenges himself to explain the complexities of policy and political theories within those word limits.
The second is a book by Dr Jo Maybin, of the King’s Fund, called ‘Producing Health Policy: Knowledge and Knowing in Government Policy Work‘. The research in this book was done during Jo’s PhD where she was able to get unprecedented access to the Department for Health. It is fascinating reading and this review calls it ‘…almost essential reading’. Unfortunately Leeds hasn’t bought a copy but I got it on inter-library loan from York.
A number of universities across the country have units that support academics in engaging with policy. Check out the websites of Public Policy Southampton, Policy Manchester, UCL Public Policy and Policy Bristol for the useful advice they provide. Leeds is part of the Universities Policy Engagement Network (UPEN). UPEN’s website has lots of interesting topics on its blog.