Every year, the British Ecological Society (BES) puts on a policy training day that is open to students, professionals, and those who are interested in learning about the interaction between science and politics. This workshop usually runs in the autumn and aims to allow participants to generate an understanding of the UK policy environment and equip them with the appropriate skills to effectively communicate their science to the policy making process. The day featured talks and exercises from a range of people with different experiences within science policy.
I found out about this experience through an e-mail from my programme director and thought it sounded like a wonderful experience. However, it was set for a day that I had 2/3 of my classes-making it a bit difficult to justify attending. Luckily, I was able to contact the organiser and over the next several months were able to set up a scaled down version aimed for MSc students. Student participants came from all across Geosciences: Environmental Protection & Management, Marine Systems & Policy, GIS, and Environment & Development.
BES Policy Officer for Scotland- Maggie Keegan, was fantastic in organising the day and brought in wonderful speakers. We had Daphne Vlastari from Scottish Environment LINK do an introduction to policy, the processes and structures in Scotland, and an overview of who makes policy. Maggie then spoke about turning science into policy at the BES, followed by Dan Barlow, the Programme Manager at ClimateXChange talking about understanding what it is like trying to get a science message across to policy makers.
After coffee, we broke into a group exercise where each group took a scientific article and had to decide on the key points to speak about in 1 minute or less- a type of ‘elevator pitch’. We then worked on these before speaking to everyone as a test-run before heading down to Parliament to present the same elevator pitch to an MSP.
In Parliament, we met with MSP Graeme Dey-the convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committe. After each group presented their pitch, Graeme gave each group feedback as well as overall critiques for everyone in how their pitch could come across more successfully. Surprisingly, each group presented their topic in a very different approach with strengths and weaknesses. This was partly to do with the articles chosen (as each article had been specifically chosen beforehand for different viewpoints), how the articles were written, and how each group interpreted the data. The feedback provided was invaluable, and will help all of us-whether or not we choose to go into politics.
If you get the chance to attend a science-policy training day, take it! Learning about where funding, laws, and regulations come from makes understanding them a little easier, as well as knowing how to go about informing and changing future policies.
For the full reflection article, please click here: https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/reflections-getting-science-policy/