Blog Topics, Tips and tricks

How to get policy-makers to notice your research


Recently, Dr. Vikki Boliver ogave an excellent talk at a joint Society for Research into Higher Education and Office for Fair Access Seminar. She has written a piece for the blog on this. Thre full talk can also be found here

There is no sure-fire way to get policy-makers to notice your research. But there are things you can do to increase the chances that they will notice it (with a bit of luck and a following wind…). My research, begun as my PhD project, involved an analysis of UCAS data which showed that Russell Group university applicants from state schools and ethnic minority backgrounds were less likely to be offered places than applicants from private schools and the white ethnic group even when they had the same grades and subjects at A-level (Boliver 2013, 2015, 2016). This research recently prompted the Prime Minister to call on universities to look closely at the fairness of their admissions practices especially in relation to the possible influence of unconscious ethnic bias; and the Minister for Universities to call on UCAS to share university admissions data with researchers and policy-makers. You can hear me talk about how the government came to know about and act upon my research findings via this podcast of my talk at a recent SRHE/OFFA seminar on Using Research to Inform Higher Education Policy and Practice. Below are my top ten tips for getting policy-makers to notice your research:

1) Publish your research in scholarly outlets and present it at scholarly events to boost the visibility and credibility of your research;

2) Write down a list of all the potential ‘stakeholders’ in your research area, think about what level of interest and influence they may have in championing (or blocking) the dissemination and impact of your research, and identify ways of engaging with these different kinds of stakeholder;

3) Set up Google news alerts for each of your key stakeholders to help you keep up with what they are saying online.

4) Work with your university media team to put out a press release, timed to coincide with the publication/presentation of your research or a peak in media interest in your research topic;

5) Identify particular journalists or media outlets that have previously covered your research topic in a knowledgeable and thoughtful way, and pitch an idea to them for a news item based on your research;

6) Write for on-line publications such as which welcome pitches for short articles;

7) Get active on Twitter and use it to build links with others in your field, tweet about your research, and retweet contributions from others;

8) Include links to the full-text of your papers (put them up on if copyright permits) in your tweets and your online writing. Use to shorten hyperlinks and keep track of how often they’re clicked;

9) Solicit opportunities to work with third sector organisations interested in the same issues as you – they may be interested in you writing a research briefing for them or speaking at one of their events;

10) Share your work with relevant government departments, public bodies and government commissions – send your papers to them and submit to calls for evidence.

Biography: Vikki Boliver is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy in the School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University. Vikki’s current research focuses on social inequalities of access to higher status universities, and on patterns and processes of social mobility across multiple generations. Her work on access to higher education in the UK has highlighted marked inequalities in rates of admission to high status universities by ethnicity, school type and socioeconomic background for applicants with comparable entry qualifications, and she has called for university admissions data to be made available to researchers and policy makers. She is currently engaged in research to evaluate the potential impact of contextualised university admissions policies on widening participation in higher education.

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