Helping researchers translate research into policy

Durham University

Durham Universityecr

Across the world, university researchers are using their expertise to solve global challenges and support a range of sustainable development goals (SDGs). However, for research to be impactful, researchers need to effectively share their research with the right people at the right time. Recognising this, Durham University, UK applied for an ACU Early Career Researcher (ECR) Training Grant to train their early career researchers in public engagement.

ECR Training Grants fund universities to organise and deliver training for ECRs in a range of essential skills such as grant writing and media engagement. Training is an important aspect of helping ECRs develop their research not only in terms of their CVs, but also understanding of what a career in research can look like, and how their work can positively impact society.

Preparing ECRs for barriers and opportunities

Durham University’s training helped researchers understand how to engage with the public and media, as well as network with relevant stakeholders and policy leaders to maximise the impact and reach of research. The training supported participants with their communication skills and challenged their thinking to come up with innovative ideas.

The training also covered a range of important topics around getting research noticed by key players, such as the barriers of public engagement, and how to solve these, to how to accommodate the needs of developing nations and influencing policy.  

Beyond general approaches and methods for engaging the public and media, the training also took into consideration the current economic climate and communications trends. Part of the training looked at the impact of economic uncertainty on public engagement, the rise of social media and how can media coverage can support research aims.

‘These areas are key to understanding the relevance of research and its societal impact. It enables researchers to visualise and develop a suitable pathway for impact by engaging effectively with a range of different stakeholders’, explains Abir van Hunen, International Partnerships Manager, Durham University. 

100% of the participants who completed a feedback survey felt that the training helped them to feel more confident in using public engagement in developing impact from their future research. Overall, participants left with an ability to:

  • Identify relevant stakeholders to engage, to help shape the bigger picture of their research and identify best outcomes for research and society
  • Inspire and talk convincingly about how their research will help generate an impact once it is actioned, and make credible claims for the contribution made by their research to that impact
  • Understand how to influence policymakers to make changes and innovate
  • Build confidence in engaging with people and the community
  • Use social media effectively to inspire and generate outputs needed
  • Gain access to a wider network

Tips for other universities

‘Make sure you have a good idea of your objectives and outcomes, plan well ahead to find the right people to deliver the outcomes you are aiming for. Make the session accessible to all and use the right platform to deliver your event. Open the event to other ACU members to engage a global audience. Our event was considerably enriched by the presence of researchers from many other ACU institutions and different countries’, Abir points out.

When using virtual events, Durham University  also suggests providing opportunities for participants to engage in discussions by creating smaller groups and break-out rooms, as well as opening the training to a greater number of participants for virtual training.

‘We recommend universities to accept more participants than your indicated maximum number, we have seen in past events that often less than the total registered participants will attend,’ Abir recommends.

Find out more about the training on Durham University's website.

If you work at an ACU member university, you could be eligible to apply for an Early Career Researcher Training Grant. Find out more.