Bridging the divide: connecting policymakers and researchers

Springer Nature Group
By: Maeve Dunne, Thu Aug 31 2023

We know that researchers want their research to have an impact, both within the research community but also on wider society, the environment and in addressing global challenges. 68% of authors we surveyed* - especially younger researchers - said that it is ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ important that research has societal impact beyond academia. It’s our responsibility as a publisher to help them achieve this, and to connect research with the policymakers who use it to make decisions that impact communities around the world.

A recent Nature Comment piece on the interaction between policy and science, however, suggests that ‘new facts alone cannot directly inform policy’. In fact, the piece says, ‘closer partnerships between researchers and policymakers could allow scientists to do much more’, even speeding up scientific progress. This piece is especially timely, as this week the UN convened the first meeting of their new Scientific Advisory Council to assess risks associated with AI, biotech and climate and bridge the gap between policy, impact and science.

We’ve been working to foster these closer partnerships; deepening our understanding of what policymakers need from the research and academic community to make decisions, but also demonstrating that policies based on peer-reviewed, published evidence are the most effective. Plus we’re here to help: we have a variety of tools available to help policymakers access and understand complex research matters should they need it, such as Nature Energy’s Policy Briefs, for example.

Most recently, we invited Dr Michael Fell from the UCL Energy Institute to join us at Evidence Week; an event hosted by Sense about Science and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) during which researchers meet parliamentarians in Westminster to discuss how evidence from frontline research can inform policy making in the UK Parliament.  

Dr Fell, who attended with Nicky Dean, then Chief Editor of Nature Energy** and Thea Sherer, Director of Sustainability at Springer Nature, met with several parliamentarians including Chair of the House of Commons Science, Innovation and Technology Select Committee, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP. Dr Fell briefed MPs on his recent Perspective in Nature Energy (‘Realist approaches in energy research to support faster and fairer climate action’ co-authored with Katy Roelich and Lucie Middlemiss from University of Leeds) which calls for greater use of "realist" approaches to evidence, to help inform faster and fairer decisions related to decarbonisation, fuel poverty and energy security among others. 

Working with Dr Fell, we used the paper’s framework to create a quick, practical guide to building/making effective policy. Using lay language to make sure the technical findings were accessible and our knowledge of the realities of the policy-making process, we identified three questions parliamentarians can bring to their thinking about evidence to help develop effective interventions in the energy space.

Evidence Week was a great opportunity to introduce our authors to parliamentarians and demonstrate the incredible research we publish across our organisation. It forms part of a programme of policy engagement continuing this year, including Springer Nature’s forthcoming Science Summit at the UN General Assembly and the next iteration of Science on the Hill which has been running since 2017 in Washington D.C. We hope to be the connection between the world of science and policy, bridging the gap and making sure everyone benefits from the knowledge the research community generates.

References and further information

We surveyed 9,000 global researchers in June 2019 as part of a joint project between Springer Nature and the Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU): Towards societal impact through open research

** Nicky Dean was Chief Editor, Nature Energy at the time of the event and is now Editorial Director, Earth, Environment, & Social Sciences, Nature Journals.

Maeve Dunne

Author: Maeve Dunne

Senior Communications Manager, Sustainability

Maeve Dunne is the Senior Communications Manager, Sustainability in the Springer Nature Group Corporate Affairs team. Prior to that, she worked in Policy and Public Affairs for the Publishers Association; the trade association representing all publishers in the UK to Government, on campaigns such as World Book Day and the Axe the Reading Tax Campaign to remove VAT from eBooks. She also has experience working on the election campaign for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. 

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