Science Communication: Advice for Early Career Researchers

2 March 2021


Reported by Julia Amtmann, CSaP Policy Intern and Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Officer

How can researchers successfully engage with policy making processes?

The processes involved in information acquisition and knowledge exchange in scientific environments involves connecting with a set of institutions which are entangled, highly complex, and hyperconnected. In the context of the covid-19 pandemic, CSaP held a professional development workshop for early career researchers which sought to explore how researchers can make their work more accessible to the policymaking community and engage with policymakers to find solutions to pressing problems. Throughout the event, early career researchers from the Responsibility in Science, Engineering and Technology program at the Technical University of Munich heard insights from Dr. Koen Jonkers, Dr Julia Knights, Dr Emma Hennessey and Dr Charles Ebikeme.

Throughout the event, panellists explored what drives researchers and policymakers throughout their careers, emphasizing the importance of expressing interest, fostering your curiosity, and finding ways to stay passionate about the problems your work seeks to address. They also highlighted the value of exploring problems through different angles, creating space for dialogue between those in government and academia, and working to share your ideas with others. Panellists also pointed to strategies which can help early career researchers extend their reach to new audiences, giving the example of stakeholder mapping. This process can help researchers to identify valuable contact points, while increasing the chances your research findings will reach a target audience who can help translate research into impact.

When seeking to generate impact from your research, event participants stressed the importance of good communication - echoing former government Chief Scientific Adviser Mark Walport’s adage that “the experiment isn't finished until you've communicated it”. Communicating research findings with those outside of a researcher’s immediate disciplinary community is vital for ensuring that research is heard and has the potential to generate impact. Here, discussion panellists emphasized the importance of developing the science communication skills needed to effectively share research with non-expert communities and groups such as politicians. Dr Charles Ebikeme shared that when sharing his research with senior government officials, he tries to think of how he would go about explaining the subject at hand to his mother. By doing so, he is able to focus on getting his key message across in a way that is accessible. Event panellists also noted that awareness of context is an important part of any research project– with researchers needing to keep in mind the biases, cultural experiences, and positionality which may have an influence upon their research. This awareness of context and positionality is vital when communicating research findings to larger audiences and to policymakers who are most concerned with the application of research findings to their own government’s policy context and the lived realities of their citizens.