Working with PolicyBristol: Q & A with Dr Peter Dunne, Senior Lecturer at University of Bristol Law School.

This week’s guest blog is by Dr Peter Dunne, Senior Lecturer at University of Bristol Law School.

Here he answers some questions on working with PolicyBristol, his policy-relevant work, and the importance of policy impact.

Dr Dunne, please can you give a brief introduction of yourself, and your policy-relevant work?

I am a Senior Lecturer at University of Bristol Law School. My research focuses on law, sexual orientation and gender identity. I am particularly interested in the ways that law regulates – and thus produces – LGBT+ identities. I am currently the Senior Expert for Sexual Orientation with the European Equality Law Network. From 2017-2018, I undertook EU-funded research on trans and intersex non-discrimination laws across Europe. My work has been cited by courts, human rights actors and public authorities in the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond. I am currently exploring the voice of trans children in England with regards to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. In 2015, I provided expert advice to the UK’s Transgender Equality Inquiry, and my research was cited extensively in the House of Common’s Select Committee on Women and Equalities’ Report (2016). My research has a strong policy focus, and I regularly work with the UK government, European Union and civil society. Prior to entering academia, I worked as a human rights advocate in the United States and in Europe.

 What did you want to achieve in your research by using PolicyBristol to help you?

In recent years, there has been increasing public, political and academic debate regarding the provision of gender confirming healthcare in the United Kingdom. While this discussion has historically centred adult individuals who wish to undertake a medical transition, it increasingly focuses on whether and how healthcare professionals should provide affirmative interventions for trans youth. Along with colleagues in civil society, I was interested in bringing together a diverse array of actors – service providers, service users, academics, public servants and advocates – to consider, in the age of the so-called ‘Transgender Tipping Point’, what constitutes best practice healthcare for trans populations. I was anxious to work with PolicyBristol because I knew that they would have the technical skills, resources, institutional connections and policy-awareness to create a multi-disciplinary, multi-perspective conference, which would marry academic research, lived-experience and policy objectives.

Your work sounds really interesting and innovative. Can you elaborate on how PolicyBristol assisted you in meeting your objectives?

My experience of working with PolicyBristol was universally positive, and I would recommend that any colleagues within the University – who are seeking to increase the policy impact of their research – should work with the experts on the PolicyBristol team. Through the trans healthcare conference, I have built important institutional relationships, and we are engaging in a number of follow-up activities, which are directly related to the work which PolicyBristol supported.

I benefited from PolicyBristol expertise and advice in numerous ways:

    • First, PolicyBristol not only have substantial links to both public authorities and government bodies, they also have considerable knowhow in reaching out to key policy actors. In seeking to bring together a broad spectrum of participants (on the day, there were ultimately representatives from government offices to the BBC, NHS clinicians to grassroot activists), the PolicyBristol team offered clear, helpful advice – which facilitated contact with numerous target audiences.
    • Second, the PolicyBristol team have significant experience in organising high-level, impactful events, which translate (sometimes dense) academic research for diverse audiences. In planning the trans healthcare conference, I was very grateful for advice from the PolicyBristol team in creating dynamic and engaging, yet safe, environments, which facilitated meaningful dialogue. A recurring feedback we received from attendees was that the diverse, non-standard formats, which we used to deliver the conference, greatly increased both understanding and accessibility on the day. From individuals, who are currently beginning to plan policy-focused events at the university, I would encourage them to speak with the PolicyBristol team to consider the framework and structure that they will adopt.
    • A key limitation that many researchers – particularly those who are early-career – encounter is that, while they may be undertaking important research, with obvious policy implications, they lack sufficient funding to disseminate their work in a productive, accessible manner. A key advantage of working with the PolicyBristol team was that – from the beginning of the collaboration – they were able to identity, both within the University of Bristol and beyond, available funding sources, which we could use to cover the conference expenses. This invaluable knowledge allowed us to expand the scope of our conference discussions, and it ensured that we were in a position to invite many of the leading policy, academic and clinical experts in the field of trans healthcare. Without the advice of PolicyBristol in this regard, we would not have been able to run our event to the scale – and with the impact – that we ultimately achieved.
  • Thank you, Dr Dunne. In closing, do you have any final words for University of Bristol academics keen to explore policy engagement in their research?I would strongly advise all Bristol academics – particularly those who are entering the policy field for the first time – to work with and learn from the PolicyBristol team. I am extremely grateful for the support and direction that I received throughout the organising process. Working with PolicyBristol allowed me to expand the scope and impact of my research, and it has created numerous follow-on opportunities that I continue to explore today.

    Dr Peter Dunne Senior Lecturer at University of Bristol Law School

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