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A good beginning

To coincide with the Scottish Policy & Research Exchange’s first AGM, its director Nick Bibby reflects on what has been achieved and the lessons learned along the way. 

The Scottish Policy & Research Exchange (SPRE) hosts its first AGM today. Our birthday party may be a few months late but there is much to celebrate. 

Since we launched at the start of 2019, we have focussed on our core goals: to expand the evidence base and range of expert voices available to the policy community; to help social scientists and other scholars maximise the impact of their research; and to improve policy outcomes available to Scots. 

We have done this be delivering in three main activities: 

Providing training to early career researchers and other ‘new voices’

We have met with around 1,000 researchers at events from Thurso to Paisley to offer practical tips on how to engage with the world of policy. We have also recently launched online Q&A sessions for researchers to gain insights from those with experience of the coalface of policymaking. 

Providing opportunities for direct engagement 

We have organised seminars or webinars on questions asked by officials covering everything from Brexit to the circular economy. Our recent launch of the Brokerage, a network of knowledge brokers at all Scottish HEIs, has allowed more scholars to feed in directly to policy discussions ranging from marine spatial planning to the economic impact of Covid-19. 

Building engagement tools in digital space

Over the course of the last seventeen months, we have launched a curated blog, an inquiries roundup – part of the Brokerage – is launched today, and we issue a newsletter every two months outlining opportunities for scholars and policy professionals. 

These and other activities represent a solid foundation for SPRE but there remains more to do. We are currently undertaking user experience (UX) research to better understand how researchers and policy professionals use existing training tools aimed at improving their cooperation and this will inform our own digital training platform to be launched this summer

The last seventeen months have provided welcome and exciting opportunities to engage with all of Scotland’s HEIs and to build relationships with a growing number of policy actors. Every day brings a reminder that policy is fashioned in all sorts of places and that research comes in all shapes and sizes. The ongoing challenge of how to get the right expertise from the right scholar to the right official is at the heart of what we do. The lesson of the last year and a bit – although it is a lesson that has been learned many times before that – is that there is no one right way of doing that. 

We will continue to develop the tools and seek out the opportunities that allow researchers and policymakers to continue their journey together. It may seem trite to say that the journey is the destination, but clichés become clichés for a reason. The process of working out how better to work together is the means by which new relationships are forged and paths between the academy and our democratic institutions become well-worn. 

At the outset of the journey that led to the creation of SPRE, scholars and policy professionals were asked to consider how research might help address some of Scotland’s thorniest policy problems and that remains our aim. We have made a good beginning but, of course, much remains to be done.

Do you want to join our network of knowledge brokers?

 

Find out more about The Brokerage