Communicating your research to policy makers and journalists
How can you get your research heard in public debates about science? What’s the best approach to communicating your work to the press and media? How can your research impact policy and legislation? If you’re interested in questions like these, Voice of Young Science ‘Standing Up for Science’ workshops are the place to be.
We’re a proud sponsor of the workshops (and love going along ourselves too), where inspiring researchers, representatives from the media, policy makers and others passionate about research get together in a room to share views, experiences and tips.
We spoke to David Docquier, an attendee of a recent workshop in Brussels to hear his top takeaways.
David Docquier, Postdoctoral Researcher in Climate Sciences
On 9 June 2017, the independent campaigning charity Sense about Science held a workshop in Brussels called ‘Standing up for Science’. I had the chance to attend this event. This was a unique opportunity for me and other EU researchers to learn many tips about how to communicate science with policy makers and journalists.
Why is it important to communicate science well?
Many political decisions and news are based on scientific evidence. This is true for a wide variety of themes, ranging from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to climate change, passing by the discovery of new diseases. The scientific information related to these themes needs to be simplified in order to be understood by policy makers and the wider audience, sometimes leading to mistakes. For this reason, it is important that researchers care about how they communicate science and how their evidence is used by policy makers and journalists.
Tips for communicating scientific issues to policy makers
The good news is that the European Commission has always used scientific evidence to design EU policies. But the quality of this evidence highly depends on the way scientists communicate with policy makers.
The ‘Standing up for Science’ workshop panelists emphasized that the timing and target are central issues when communicating with policy makers. Your research will appear more or less important depending on the current political agenda. In this context, knowledge of the main policy problems is crucial.
Delivering high-quality science is also a key recommendation from policy makers if you want your research to be advertised and usable by authorities.
And you need to know that most of the time you will deal with assistants instead of parliament members of the municipalities, countries and the EU (who are very busy).
Advice for communicating with journalists
When communicating science to journalists, a first piece of advice from the workshop panelists was to wait for your research articles to be peer reviewed before writing a press release. As such, it means that your research has been carefully reviewed by other scientists and that it has more credibility.
Another important tip is to make your research ‘easy to follow’ when writing your press release. This means thinking about a story, which will make the science behind your research more attractive and understandable. Editor’s note: Taylor & Francis have a dedicated Press and Media team who work with researchers and journal editors to identify newsworthy research published in Taylor & Francis & Routledge journals. This is identified early in the production stage so they can craft press campaigns around this and have a team of experts write press releases, working closely with authors.
Limiting the information to the essential is also extremely important when communicating with journalists, even if it is always interesting to talk about the wider context.
And last but not least, scientists need to convince journalists that their study is relevant to society.
In summary, this workshop was really a great way for me and other EU researchers to get tips for communicating with policy makers and journalists. I am sure these recommendations will be useful in my potential future contacts with policy makers and journalists.
David Docquier is a Belgian climatologist working at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Belgium. His postdoctoral research focuses on the evaluation of sea ice processes in global climate models and its links with the current climate change. His study is embedded within the EU Horizon 2020 PRIMAVERA project. He regularly writes dissemination articles for the European Geosciences Union (EGU) Cryosphere Blog.