Engaging with Policy Makers Engaging with Policy Makers


Around 20% of the REF2014 Impact Case Studies cited policy change as an impact of their research. Investment of public funds in research, especially during a time of economic austerity, has meant it is more important than ever to demonstrate the real world impact of research. Becoming involved in the policy making process can provide researchers with an opportunity to explore links with politicians, pressure groups, and individuals who could potential adopt outcomes/evidence of research and  enact changes in the real world. By becoming involved in this process, real world users such as patients, professional service providers, and community groups for example, may have the opportunity to feed back into research questions and processes, providing robust cases studies and demonstrating the impact of your research in practice. 

Getting your research cited in policy documents can provide evidence of the pathways you have created to develop impact. Remember that being cited in a policy document may demonstrate an impact on attitudes and decision making but does not necessarily evidence change or adoption in end users. For example a strong case study would show that your research was influential enough to convince policy makers to implement a change in policy based on the evidence you provided, and significantly, that this policy change was then implemented and had the desired effect in the real world.   


Key questions to help structure your thoughts:


What researchers need to know What researchers need to do How to do it
Political Context: 
•Who are the policymakers? 
•Is there policymaker demand for new ideas? 
•What are the sources / strengths of resistance?
•What is the policymaking process? 
•What are the opportunities and timing for input into formal processes? 
•Get to know the policymakers, their agendas and their constraints. 
•Identify potential supporters and opponents. 
•Keep an eye on the horizon and prepare for opportunities in regular policy processes. 
•Look out for – and react to – unexpected policy windows. 
•Work with the policymakers.
•Seek commissions. 
•Line up research programmes with high-profile policy events. 
•Reserve resources to be able to move quickly to respond to policy windows. 
•Allow sufficient time and 
•What is the current theory? 
•What are the prevailing narratives? 
•How divergent is the new evidence? 
•What sort of evidence will convince policymakers? 
•Establish credibility over the long term. 
•Provide practical solutions to problems. 
•Establish legitimacy. 
•Build a convincing case and present clear policy options. 
•Package new ideas in familiar theory or narratives. 
•Communicate effectively. 
•Build up programmes of high-quality work. 
•Action-research and Pilot projects to demonstrate benefits of new approaches. 
•Use participatory approaches to help with legitimacy and implementation. 
•Clear strategy for communication from the start. 
•Face-to-face communication. 
•Who are the key stakeholders? 
•What links and networks exist between them? 
•Who are the intermediaries, and do they have influence? 
•Whose side are they on? 
•Get to know the other stakeholders.
•Establish a presence in existing networks. 
•Build coalitions with like-minded stakeholders. 
•Build new policy networks. 
•Partnerships between researchers, policymakers and policy end-users. 
•Identify key networkers and salesmen. 
•Use informal contacts. 
External Influences: 
•Who are main international actors in the policy process? 
•What influence do they have? 
•What are their aid priorities?
•What are their research priorities and mechanisms? 
•What are the policies of the donors funding the research? 
•Get to know the donors, their priorities and constraints. 
•Identify potential supporters, key individuals and networks. 
•Establish credibility. 
•Keep an eye on donor policy and look out for policy windows. 
•Develop extensive background on donor policies. 
•Orient communications to suit donor priorities and language. 
•Cooperate with donors and seek commissions.
•Contact (regularly) key individuals. 

Information taken from Tools for Policy Impact, Daniel Start and Ingie Hovland, 2004, Overseas Development Institute


Parliament and Public Policy
Both Cambridge and Sheffield have produced ‘How to guides’ that we strongly recommend you download and read:

Policy Impact: 'a how to guide for Researchers', Charlotte Sausman, University of Cambridge

How to Evidence and Record Policy Impact: 'a how to guide for Researchers', Charlotte Sausman, University of Cambridge

A Recipe for Parliamentary Impact? An academic guide to effective engagement,  Katherine Dommett, Marc Geddes and Brenton Prosser, The University of Sheffield



This fantastic blog on the LSE Impact Blog by Sarah Foxen outlines Nine ways research can get into Parliament. Please do read the article in full, but outlined below is a summary put together by Sarah Foxen (updated April 2016), to which the links she provides have been added. Please click on each square to follow the link:


Political calls for information: 

UK Government Open Consultations (a useful route to informing and influencing new Government policy)

A-Z of UK Government Committees (with links to the business of each separate committee)

European Commission Open Consultations (a potential route to inform EC guidance and policies, email alert subscription also available)


Health Policy calls for information: 


Department of Health Consultations


Policy Toolkits from other sources: 

Public policy and the Humanities

Policy Impact Toolkit

Top tips: How can your Research Impact Policy? 

Please also refer to our page on writing policy briefs.