In this blog piece, Emily Murray (IEHC’s Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health) provides some helpful advice on how to get research mentioned in Parliament.
The 13th of December 2017 dawned like any other day. I was sitting at my desk with my favourite coffee preparing to dive into another day of researching…when a Twitter notification popped up:
Professor Jenny Head, my supervisor and head of our research group at the time, had provided a link to a video recording of the all parliamentary meeting of the Women’s & Equality sub-committee. I clicked over & started to listen. Fifteen minutes into the recording, something wonderful happened:
Someone mentioned my research. My research. MY. RESEARCH. In a parliamentary meeting.
To put it mildly, I was elated.
Isn’t this what we as researchers aspire to in our work? That the findings of our work makes its way into the ears of the people who make the decisions? That someday, hopefully, what we have researched will change policy, improve health & well-being of the population and generally improve the lives of all our brethren?
But I get ahead of myself.
I don’t know whether my findings being relayed in a parliamentary meeting has changed anything (yet). What I do know is that it didn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t entirely planned either, but a series of steps and activities that our project, RenEWL (Research on Extending Working Lives), undertook made the outcome much more likely. I share them with you now so that you will hopefully be even more successful than I was.
Emily’s top tips for getting your research mentioned in Parliament:
- Start Early – at RenEWL, we set up an impact sub-group from day one. We charted out ideas for impact events, discussed who we wanted to target with our research and mapped out timelines. This is important. If we had waited until we had had actual research results, we wouldn’t have had the time to plan effective events.
*Note: If you are not a part of a large group, or solo researching, find an impact officer at your institution. If you don’t have one of those, find a researcher you admire for their impact work and ask them how they plan out their impact.
- Build Relationships – One of our first impact events was a launch event we held within the first 6 months of our project. We invited a select group of experts in government, academic and the third-sector who we knew worked in our subject area. Part of the event was to introduce the project and project plans to the participants. But what I also think was particularly important, was to build in time to listen to THEM. We set up group discussions where we asked what they thought of our project aims, but also importantly what topic areas they were interested in that we were missing.
- Bring in the experts – One of the initial collaborators on our programme was the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK). ILC-UK has vast experience with planning events and disseminating results to policy-makers. Our project commissioned them to help disseminate our findings to policy-makers. I believe it was this collaboration which was instrumental in making our policy maker-focused event ‘Overcoming Inequalities: Addressing barriers to extending working lives’ such a success. They additionally briefed individual ministers, government units and journalists.
- Stay Aware – Find our how Parliament works. To get started, there are simple guides on the Parliament’s website. Here is the guide for Select Committees. Sign up for the UK parliament newsletter to receive notifications of events and offered trainings. Find out what topic areas are accepting submissions of evidence here. We submitted evidence to a number of government consultations, including in person to the Independent Review of the State Pension Age.
- Act quickly – Or at least be prepared to act quickly. Don’t wait for a consultation to pop up on your radar to start drafting a document. Policy-makers act on quick timescales. You will most likely only have a few hours or days (weeks if lucky) to submit a document. Don’t get caught out.
- Network, network, network – A few of the initial attendees at our launch event agreed to serve on our advisory committee. Other participants later invited us to present findings at their (external) institutions. From submitting evidence to the Independent Review, John Cridland agreed to be the key-note at our policy-maker event.
- Disseminate, disseminate, disseminate – Every person we met through project activities was asked if they wanted be included on our mailing list. We have a project-specific web-site and twitter account. Every published finding was sent to our mailing list, posted on the web-site and tweeted. This included our final report, titled ‘Working for Everyone’, that was written in conjunction with ILC-UK and additionally sent to their contact list as well.
Acknowledgements: Professor Jenny Head and Professor Nicola Shelton designed this impact structure. Professor Head, Dr Nicola Shelton and I planned all impact activities together. ILC-UK was instrumental in the success of our policy-maker event and report. The entire RenEWL team was instrumental in the success of our programme.