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What has SPRE done?

Since its launch at the beginning of 2019, the Scottish Policy & Research Exchange has worked with the the University of Edinburgh and other partners to improve the flow of evidence, expertise and scholarly analysis from the academy to the world of policy. We have so far focused particularly on establishing the networks and building the tools to increase policy engagement capacity in Scottish HEIs. 

What has SPRE done in 2019-2020?

Our first 18 months have seen us launch the first phases of our training activity in real and digital space, which will be further enhanced when we launch our ‘policy toolkit’ later this summer. During this time, we have also established Scotland’s first nationwide network of knowledge brokers and the first overarching database of governmental and parliamentary inquiries anywhere in the UK. 

We are conscious of the need to work with partners to deliver significant and lasting change in how policymakers use academic research. So far, we have established relationships with scholars and professional services staff at all of Scotland HEIs and worked with the Universities Scotland Researcher Development & Training Committee and the SGSSS, SGSAH and SUPER doctoral training partnerships. Over the next twelve months, we aim to establish a network of Academic Engagement Champions throughout the Scottish policy community.

We were so grateful to have Nick present on engagement with policymakers to SPS PhD students. Nick’s expertise in the area, and the great work that’s taking place at SPRE, were really helpful for participants to learn about the relationship between research and policymaking. He was particularly helpful in answering student’s questions on how to engage with policymakers and provided really practical and useful tips for how to do that successfully.

Katie Hirono, Principal’s Career Development Fellow

Networks and activities

SPRE has established networks throughout the worlds of policy and research in Scotland. While remaining focused on the social sciences and the core policy institutions of the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament, we have connected with scholars in other disciplines and worked with Audit Scotland, the Improvement Service and others. 


Who have we engaged with?

% of researchers and members of staff

Colleagues from the University of Edinburgh have consistently engaged with SPRE activities in both real and digital space. Within UoE, researchers from SPS have been by far the most involved in our work, accounting for 42% of all interactions with the university.

We have been involved in five training events with UoE in the last year and are discussing future events.  Our most frequent interactions with Edinburgh have been in digital space, most notably including a high level of subscription to our Brokerage and inquiries services. We have brokered individual contacts between UoE academics and officials from the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government, Audit Scotland, and the Improvement  Service.

The high level of interest in SPRE’s activities from scholars at Edinburgh in general and SPS in particular is very welcome and we look forward to the relationship developing further in the years ahead.

Partnerships for Policy

Digital Resources

Prior to the CoVid-19 pandemic, activities in digital space made up a large part of SPRE’s output. The transition to an exclusively digital operation was far less traumatic than it was for many organisations. 

Based on what we have learned in the last few months, we will take a ‘digital first’ approach even as lockdown restrictions are lifted. This will allow us to make greater use of video and audio resources, as well as greatly expanding our reach for training activities. We will also be launching our own online policy toolkit before the end of the summer. 

Our first steps into digital space involved setting up a curated blog. More recently we have established a popular series of training webinars for early career researchers – so far featuring speakers from the RSE and Scottish Natural Heritage the Brokerage network and inquiries service, and a series of short films. These, along with the toolkit mentioned above, are available to all of our partners for their own researcher development programmes. 

“Based in Edinburgh, we create opportunities that take advantage of our location in a capital city. Attuned to changing policy landscapes, we engage with local, national and UK government priorities and with arts, cultural, design, educational, financial, health and legal organisations to make major contributions to Scotland’s and the UK’s prosperity and wellbeing.”

CAHSS | Strategy for Research and Knowledge Exchange 2016 to 2021

Securing the Future

Since its inception, SPRE has recognised the need to work in partnership with the HEIs and policy institutions that comprise its network. We have developed the tools and relationships to build capacity on the ‘supply side’ of that relationship within the academy and we anticipate this continuing to grow in the years ahead. Over the next 12 months we will work to expand and strengthen our networks on the ‘demand side’ in government and other policy institutions. 

Over the next year we will work with the Scottish and Irish Governments to pilot a joint fellowship programme that would see pairs of officials from both governments meeting with scholars from across Scotland and Ireland to address policy questions of mutual interest. We will also work to establish a network of academic engagement champions in policy institutions. 

By working with both policy and research in this way, we seek to build partnerships for the long term and influence the way policy is fashioned in Scotland. It is this approach that will best allow our institutional partners, as well as individual scholars and policy professionals, to deepen their understanding of each other’s needs and develop trusting, robust relationships.