When you think about engaging with policy as a researcher, it’s easy to focus on Government; feeding into policy development, responding to Government consultations, working with Ministers and their teams. But what about the parliamentary side? Would you like your evidence to feed into the scrutiny of Government? Would you like your findings to inform debates in the House of Commons and House of Lords?
The UK Parliament uses academic research evidence in all its core activities whether that is scrutinising the UK Government, debating matters of the day, legislating, and approving taxes and spending. In short, Parliament uses research to help it hold the Government to account and to shape policy and decisions.
Parliament is keen to be using more of the best available research evidence in all these activities, which is why there is now a dedicated Knowledge Exchange Unit, that aims to support the exchange of information and expertise between researchers and the UK Parliament. That’s where I come in, as one of Parliament’s Knowledge Exchange Managers.
I’d like to share here some ways that Parliament uses research, and tips on how you could feed your research in. And if this feels like a lot of information, don’t panic! I’ve included some suggestions for practical first steps that will help you to do this.
Before that, to give you an overview into the different ways that Parliament engages with the research community, I have outlined the key areas of Parliament to think about in your approach.
These conduct inquiries into various topics. The inquiry process includes seeking written ‘evidence’ and holding oral evidence sessions. Anyone can submit written evidence. Find out which are the relevant select committees for you, and start to follow their work, either by signing up for alerts from the Parliament website, or by following them on Twitter. Select committees also advertise for specialist advisers from time to time, so keep an eye out for these opportunities. You can find details on select committees here.
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces briefings on topics in science, technology and the social sciences. You could propose a topic for a briefing, contribute to a briefing currently being written, or participate in peer review of a briefing before it is published. From their page you can also sign up to the mailing list to receive details of POST’s work programme and their public events. POST also coordinates academic fellowships for both PhD students and those who are further on in their career.
Both the House of Commons Library and the House of Lords Library provide research services. In practice, this means they answer enquiries from Members, but they also write briefings. Their briefings tend to be reactive, on topics receiving a lot of media or parliamentary attention, ahead of a debate or as a Bill is going through Parliament. The best way to proceed here is to have a look at the kinds of briefings they produce through the research briefing portal and then, if you feel you have expertise that maps onto policy areas getting a lot of interest, get in contact with the libraries by emailing [email protected] with a brief introduction of yourself and your expertise.
There are many All Party Parliamentary Groups in Parliament. These are informal cross-party interest groups that have no official status within Parliament. They hold meetings to exchange information around their subject area of interest, bring in experts to talk at events and sometimes conduct inquiries. You could get involved with an APPG by contacting them and offering to deliver a talk or contribute to their work. There is a register of them here which also provides contact details.
We can’t ignore the current context of the COVID-19 outbreak; it’s vital that Parliament has access to the best available research evidence at this time. We’ve put together a COVID-19 researcher engagement webpage; this outlines all the most targeted, impactful ways that you can contribute your expertise and insights to the UK Parliament related to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts.
So what to do next? Here are your first steps towards getting your research into Parliament.
The Knowledge Exchange Unit is here to support you, as part of Parliament’s commitment to engaging with the research community and using the best available research evidence. We really would like to hear from and work with researchers; so the next time you’re thinking about policy engagement, why not turn your attention to Parliament?
If you have questions or would like to get in touch with the Knowledge Exchange Unit at Parliament, you can reach us on [email protected].