This post was written by Mariam Hussain and Eduardo Oliveira.
On March 17, 2023, UGoveRN joined forces with Thomas More University of Applied Sciences in Mechelen, Belgium, and the Regional Studies Association from the UK, in a collaborative effort to organize a dynamic seminar.
This engaging event brought together researchers, professionals from the property industry, and other experts to exchange insights and best practices on effectively presenting and disseminating research to diverse audiences. The seminar served as a valuable platform for meaningful discussions and learning opportunities to enhance the impact and reach of research outcomes.
This seminar topic was suggested based on skill development for early career scholars who work in professional academic, industry, and blended environments. Presenters consisted of Eduardo Oliveira (Thomas More University of Applied Sciences) and Mariam Hussain (UGoveRN / British Land).
Mariam presented on her experience on sharing research in different environments and how communication styles and formats will differ. This is a significant topic for UGoveRN members as individual research practice often falls at the intersection of academic and industry and requires participation and feedback from both sides.
Key learnings from the industry perspective were:
- Understanding who will be in your audience as part of the preparation stage which will influence the depth of information you would like to share
- Understanding that your audience may be diverse and have contrasting viewpoints and feedback on findings
- Emphasising the visual on slide layouts, and using concise and minimal text
- Setting a purpose for the presentation and stating that at the beginning
Mariam along with another colleague shared additional recommendations on presenting such as using clear and concise definitions, leveraging your expertise, slide dividers to outline the topic, and conducting practice run throughs.
Eduardo Oliveira highlighted the Regional Studies Association‘s strapline of “Research Today, Policy Tomorrow“. The Regional Studies Association (RSA) is a learned society that analyses regions and addresses regional challenges. The association’s international membership provides a reputable platform and network for academics, students, practitioners, and policymakers to partner, prepare, advance, and showcase their work.
The RSA’s strapline emphasizes the longstanding tradition of the association’s reliance on empirical research and its commitment to nurturing and enhancing its relationship with policy-making processes. However, it acknowledges the prevailing notion of researchers having an “ivory tower” reputation and the existence of a perceived divide between researchers and policy experts (“town and gown” notions). Today’s complex world is fraught with numerous wicked problems, such as climate change, the war in Ukraine, and the Covid-19 pandemic, each impacting global health outcomes. The RSA strongly agrees that researchers can play a vital role in contributing to policy solutions to the grand societal challenges.
Eduardo Oliveira’s presentation shed light on the RSA’s mission to bridge the gap between research and policy, fostering collaboration for tackling pressing regional challenges, such as economic uncertainties and the challenges for structurally weak regions or regional development in the shadow of political and social change. According to Bastow et al. (2015), 47% of the policy makers surveyed perceived research as directly relevant to their roles, with 36% utilizing academic research multiple times a month and 36% accessing it a few times a year. These findings highlight the growing interest and importance of research for policymakers. The following additional takeaways resulted from this session:
Takeaways for policy makers:
- Be mindful that researchers may be focused on something other than policy engagement; research, publications, and teaching drive their career paths.
- Show appreciation and reciprocity when researchers provide evidence or analysis; support their grant applications with meaningful letters of endorsement.
- Diversify your pool of advisors by reaching out to new networks and investing in relationships beyond the “usual suspects” to foster fresh ideas and diverse perspectives.
Takeaways for researchers:
- Pursue policy training, if available, at your institution to enhance knowledge exchange skills, as engaging with policymakers requires specialized approaches.
- Consider media training to gain confidence in dealing with interviews, blogs, and other public communication platforms to disseminate research findings effectively.
- Enhance the visibility and accessibility of your work by maintaining an up-to-date web profile, optimizing search engine visibility, utilizing open-access publishing, institutional repositories, and leveraging social media to promote research. Keep policymakers informed and nurture relationships for collaboration and co-production opportunities.
In line with RSA’s mission, Eduardo called for a wider recognition of the power of learned societies as a framework for bridging the gap between research and policy. The RSA exemplifies this connection, offering a membership beyond academia and a range of standard and non-standard publication outlets such as Regions eZine, an open-access, free electronic magazine (e-zine). See for example, the UGoveRN member Ebru Kurt Özman (University of Amsterdam) published an article with the title “Harnessing Covid-19 Experiences in Pandemic Regions for a Tentative Framework of Urban Resilience” together with Aysun Aygün Oğur (Pamukkale University) and Zeynep Özdemir (Amasya University).
With a strong focus on policy engagement and inclusive events for both communities, the RSA is a skilled matchmaker, facilitating meaningful connections between researchers and policymakers. The RSA recently announced their session on “Research Today, Policy Tomorrow” at the European Week of Regions and Cities in Brussels. Set to occur on Wednesday, 11th October, from 16.30 to 16.45. During the session, Sally Hardy, RSA CEO, will provide valuable insights into harnessing the potential of learned societies to advance empirically evidenced policy-making.
The UGoveRN network thanks all speakers for participating in the workshop and sharing insights from their different perspectives.