Communicating Research to Policymakers

Even though scientists work hard and make huge discoveries, it really might not have any impact without the stamp of policymakers. These are people at central, state or local levels that make the laws and regulations. They govern people and execute budgets, they are the ones that pass recommendations into laws as policies. There are ways to go about communicating successfully with these policymakers.

How to go about it:

  1. Be certain of who to meet: There are different decision makers that you can get across to, at the local, federal or state level. The scope of your work will determine the policymaker to meet. You can also partner with NGOs and institutions that can hasten the process of the decision making. If you don’t know who to meet, ask colleagues and also the university that you work.

  2. Have a definite end goal: it is important for you to know what you want to achieve at the end of the day. Be very specific about what is to be done and what to expect at the end of it. For example, if your recommendations are ways to go about disposing plastic wastes properly, make sure you outline what is meant to be at the end, that can be the reduction of plastic wastes in drainages in your local community.

  3. Make your work understandable: Your work might go across to different people from different fields that might not be familiar with your field, therefore, make sure your work can be understood by people. Write it in such a way that can be easily comprehended and relatable. When trying to reach the public and wider audience, you can summarize your work by writing out the key issues and recommendations.

  4. Write in clear terms: Most policymakers will want to share your work with colleagues, so they almost always ask for a written version rather than talks and presentations. When this happens, make sure your work is written clearly. You can write out the key points and explain later. Some of them might not be familiar with your field of expertise, make sure you do not use acronyms without spelling it out. You can use bullets to draw attention to your main points. Use headings and subsection if possible. Use key words and technical terms (make sure you define these). Make sure your work is organized and legible. Give friends to go through it if possible, especially those not in your field.

  5. Know when to act: Knowing when to act is a very important strategy, therefore, you can get access to timetables of politicians, know when the next election will be, when there is possibility of power changing hands. Take note of all these so you can know when to present your work to the policymaker.

  6. Make your recommendations clear and applicable: Having specific and clear recommendations is very imperative and will help the policymakers to know what to do. You should specify the advantages and disadvantages of your recommendations. Whatever your recommendation is should be something that can be done, it should also fall within the budget of the policymakers that you are going to meet.

  7. Follow up: Getting across to policymakers and partnering with them takes time and effort. Follow up is necessary and very important if not all endeavor to get your recommendations into policies can be in vain. Most policy still have to go through many processes, debates, review and comments from the public. Communicate once in a while with a major policymaker to get updates about your recommendations, make changes to them, if possible. This also shows a level of commitment and investment.

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