Research, Impact and the UK Parliament – Event Report

Katie Drax, Honorary Research Assistant at the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (TARG)

Science can inform how society is run so research can have implications for public and private policy. But how? How can research feed into policy-making, i.e. evidence-based policy? For those who don’t have a clue about parliamentary actions or how they relate to academics’ work the “Research, Impact and the UK Parliament” event series is a good way to get to grips with Parliament and research.

Starting at 10 a.m. we pinned name badges to our shirts and busied ourselves by riffling through the Houses of Parliament tote bags placed on our seats. Thankfully the event did not require much prior knowledge since it was assumed the majority of attendees were ignorant about the workings of Parliament and so the first presentation was a 30 minute crash course on the subject. Continue reading

Working with the media can be beneficial but linking to and citing your research should be compulsory

 

Andy Tattersall, Information Specialist at the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)

Andy Tattersall, Information Specialist, ScHARR, University of Sheffield.

It’s great when academic research is covered by the media but too often this coverage fails to link back to or properly cite the research itself. It’s time academics insisted on this and Andy Tattersall outlines the benefits of doing so. As well as pointing more people to your work, the use of identifiers allows you to track this attention and scrutinise where and how your research has been used. At a time when academic work is vulnerable to misreporting, such a simple step can help ensure the public are able to view original research for themselves.

Academics are increasingly being sold the benefits of working with the media as an effective way of gaining impact and presenting their work to a wider audience. Yet all too often media coverage of research has no direct link to the research it is referring to. The general public are used to seeing news stories that say ‘researchers have found’ or ‘researchers from the university of’ yet these reports are often lacking when it comes to linking to or citing the actual research. Academics dealing with the media should make a point of insisting on linking to their original research outputs where applicable as there are several benefits. Given that Oxford Dictionaries just named ‘post-truth’ as their word of 2016, we need to do everything we can to ensure fact retains its importance in the reporting of research.

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Life in the House of Commons Library

Madeline Burke, PhD Student, Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials

Madeline Burke, PhD Student, Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, University of Bristol

As a PhD student I rarely get exposed to aspects of academic life such has grant writing, policy and management.  So when the opportunity came up to apply for a 3 month internship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), I jumped at the chance.

POST, as it is known, is based at the heart of Westminster. It serves both Houses of Parliament in providing impartial advice to parliamentarians on science and technology policy issues; often in the form of briefing papers called POSTnotes. POST was formed by a group of MPs and Peers concerned at the lack of scientific evidence available to influence Parliamentary policy and in 2001 both Houses decided that POST should be established as a permanent bicameral institution.

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Engaging with the Policy-making and Scrutiny Process in Wales: How Does Research Get into the National Assembly for Wales?

Lauren Carter-Davies, Public Policy Institute for Wales

Lauren Carter-Davies, Public Policy Institute for Wales

In addition to our remit to support Welsh Government Ministers to identify their evidence needs and provide them with independent expert advice and analysis, the Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPIW) is trying to play a broader role in developing the ‘evidence ecosystem’ in Wales – the networks and channels through which evidence can inform policy and practice. We think that it’s important that Assembly Members who are involved in scrutinising policy and legislation also have access to authoritative independent policy experts.

The National Assembly for Wales is a democratically elected body with three main roles: representing the interests of Wales and its people, making laws for Wales, and holding the Welsh Government to account through policy scrutiny. In fulfilling these roles, the Assembly is a big consumer of research and is always looking to make links with independent sources of expertise. Specifically, the National Assembly for Wales Research Service provides impartial research and information to support Assembly Members and committees in fulfilling the scrutiny, legislative and representative functions of the Assembly. Providing an effective Research Service requires access to research from external organisations and individuals with knowledge and expertise in relevant subject areas. Continue reading

Nine ways research gets into Parliament

In October 2015 I wrote a post about how research gets into Parliament. Six months on, in April this year, I had a Twitter conversation with Matthew Purvis, head of research services in the House of Lords Library. Matthew told me that there are a couple of other ways that research gets into Parliament, which I didn’t know about when I wrote my original post.  So below is an update. Updates are in italics in the text, but here’s a summary of what’s new:

Research also gets into Parliament:

  • in Lords Briefing Packs (no. 6)
  • through Lords Library responses to Peers’ questions (no. 8)
  • through the House of Lords Library Current Affairs Digest (no. 9)

Nine ways research gets into Parliament (pdf here).

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How to write a blogpost from your journal article in eleven easy steps

This piece originally appeared on the author’s Writing for Research blog.

Patrick Dunleavy is Professor of Political Science at the LSE and is Chair of the LSE Public Policy Group. He is well known for his book Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral dissertation or thesis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

Patrick Dunleavy is Professor of Political Science at the LSE and is Chair of the LSE Public Policy Group. He is well known for his book Authoring a PhD: How to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral dissertation or thesis (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

You’ve just published a research article – why should you bother writing a blog post about it? Patrick Dunleavy argues that if you’ve devoted months to writing the paper, dealing with comments, doing rewrites and hacking through the publishing process, why would you not spend the extra couple of hours crafting an accessible blogpost? Here he breaks down in eleven easy steps how to generate a short-form version of your research article.

One of the oddest things that people in academic life regularly say to me is: ‘I’m not paid to write blogposts, only research articles. If my department or the grant-funder wants to start paying me for doing posts, then that would be a different matter’. Or alternatively, the argument goes: ‘I just don’t have the time to do blogging’. Or finally, the clinching rebuttal is: ‘Your blogpost just won’t get cited, and in today’s research environment, only citations count’.

Apparently then a lot of folk suffer from some serious misconceptions about what writing a blogpost entails:

  • They think it takes days, weeks, or even months to produce that difficult bit of text — it doesn’t, it takes two or three hours at most.
  • They believe that time devoted to a blogpost is time away from your main research — it’s not. Your post is done after you’ve finished and published your journal article — it is just a more readable and hopefully more popular version of that article, with key messages summarized in about 1,000 words.
  • Perhaps they also think that publishing a blogpost takes the time and hassle involved in submitting to journals, trekking through box after box of obscure electronic publishing bureaucracy, and then waiting weeks or months before seeing a proof, and months more for publication. But publishing a post is not like that at all. You get your 1,000 words finished in Word or equivalent. Include a table or a chart or two, being scrupulous to present them well. Then send it to a multi-author blog with a big readership in your field and a couple of days later your text is online at the blog.

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Essential Guide: Eight ways research gets into Parliament

This article was originally posted by Sarah Foxen on the author’s personal blog.

Discussions about research and policy have a tendency to be more reflective about policy-making in general, rather than focusing on the more practical aspects of how research filters through a variety of networks and into policy discussions. Sarah Foxen looks at eight specific ways research currently gets into Parliament and provides some helpful links on where to start to get more involved.

I recently attended an RCUK-funded training day on research and policy. Part-way through one of the breakout sessions, it became apparent that my peers were sharing my frustrations with the training. We had expected to gain practical insight into how research feeds into policy, but instead the training had a rather more reflective focus, with the majority of speakers using their lectern time to perpetuate or challenge discourses surrounding academic impact.

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Communicating with the world: top tips for media engagement

interviewEngaging with the media can be tough, as noted by many of the academics who attended the PolicyBristol workshop. Some of the potential barriers they identified included:

–   Requirement for research findings to be ‘timely’
–   Mismatch of pace
–   The feeling of needing to be an expert
–    Distraction from ‘day job’
–    Fear of misrepresentation

But behind these potential challenges, there’s a whole host of benefits. Getting your research into the public domain is often essential for realising its impact, and can also be an important source of participants/collaborators for your research itself. One could also argue that, from a moral or ethical perspective, change should involve public opinion. As Sue Littlemore, former BBC Education Correspondent, pointed out: it’s not about engaging with the media for its own sake – it’s about ‘communicating with the world’.

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Are you skilled in the dark art of Social Media?

In this blog post, Kim Eggleton, our Journals Executive, explains why she believes social media is the researcher’s new best friend

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

Whenever I talk to researchers about using social media, the most common “objection” I hear is that it’s self-promotion, and nothing more than vanity.

The second most common protest is that good research should stand on its own merits, and if it’s good enough, people will find it. I can understand where both these opinions come from, but I think the world has moved on considerably and neither of these concerns are valid any longer.

…in 2012, over 1.8 million articles were published in 28,000 journals.

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How to: Engage with Parliament

Stephen Halsey, PolicyBristol Intern and Assistant Teacher, School of Economics, Finance and Management

Stephen Halsey, PolicyBristol Intern and Assistant Teacher, School of Economics, Finance and Management

How can research influence government and the policy making process? What are the best ways to engage with Parliament? As part of PolicyBristol’s training programme, a couple of weeks ago we hosted an event to address these vital questions. We welcomed speakers from the Houses of Parliament Outreach Service, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) and the Education Select Committee as well as one of our own academics with a depth of experience in engaging with parliamentary processes. Speakers were:

  • Liz Price, Regional Officer – Wales and SW England, Parliament’s Outreach ServiceSarah Bunn, Scientific Adviser, Biology and Health, POST
  • Sarah Bunn, Scientific Adviser, Biology and Health, POST
  • Martin Smith, Committee Specialist, Commons Education Select Committee
  • David Berridge, Professor of Child & Family Welfare, School for Policy Studies

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