Relationships are central to influencing policy

13 April 2016


Reported by Adele Julier, NERC-Funded CSaP Policy Intern (January 2016 - April 2016)

Securing policy influence requires skillful working within and across personal, professional and disciplinary networks

A recent workshop, hosted by CSaP at the British Ecological Society (BES) and Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI) joint symposium, explored this idea as part of a discussion on 'Engaging with policy makers: the demand side'. Panel members were Gary Kass, Deputy Chief Scientist at Natural England and Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra, and Miles Parker OBE, former Director of Science and Defra Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, with CSaP's Clare Moran chairing.

The theme of the conversation was that relationships are at the heart of engaging with policy. Given that politicians and policy makers have to make decisions whether or not they have appropriate evidence, having stable, embedded relationships between researchers and policy makers is crucial. The group considered points in the policy process at which effective contributions can be made. It was suggested that researchers are able to play both advocacy and advisory roles, with the caveat that everyone involved is clear on which role they are playing in any interaction.

The question of how to deal with evidence which may contradict government policies was raised, leading to a discussion of the multi-faceted nature of the political decision making process, emphasising that politicians are employed to make decisions where the evidence is not clear.

Workshop participants also shared their experiences of international mechanisms for engagement in climate and environmental policy. Participants highlighted that at the international scale, researchers can face more complex (but not insurmountable) communication problems than those routinely encountered between researchers and policy makers in the UK.

An edited version of the introduction from Gary Kass can be found here, and more information about the joint symposium can be found here.

(Banner image from Kyle Taylor via Flickr)

Dr Gary Kass

The Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES)

Dr Miles Parker

Centre for Science and Policy, University of Cambridge