Mary Fernandes, Renee Cloutier, Travis Loughran, Melanie Arenson
If you’re here after our last post on “Involving Stakeholders in Every Step of Your Research”, welcome back! In our last post, we discussed what a stakeholder is, why we should involve
them in our research work, and how we can efficiently do so. However, we shouldn’t stop there! One next step to increasing the impact that your research has on policy is to effectively convey your completed work to these invested stakeholders. This can be hard to do, so below are a few tips that might make this easier.
First, write with stakeholders in mind.
In order to write a paper that will affect public policy, first ask yourself the questions, “who will read this?”, and, “who will be affected by this?” (Purdue University, OWL). Frame your scientific paper with this audience in mind, whether it be policy makers, insurance companies, businesses, local citizens, patients, or providers. Remembering your unique audience will allow you to communicate your work at the level of your reader. With the policy implications of your work in mind, you might also carefully consider the right journal to submit to. For example, you could choose to submit your work to a journal that is less niche than you might normally submit to and more general or policy focused.
Always lead with the “why”, not the “what”.
Then, ask yourself why your work should matter to your stakeholders. Discuss these reasons succinctly and clearly to grab your stakeholders’ attention before describing what it is you did. By failing to address the “why”, you might lose your stakeholders from the very beginning. But how do you ensure that your reasons for your study line up with those of your stakeholders? How do you identify what your “why” is?
Figuring that out will require you to really understand your stakeholders’ concerns. Hopefully, you were able to use the above strategies to include stakeholders while planning your research, but if you did not, it’s not too late to do so. Speak to them with a goal of truly understanding their principal concerns. Ask them questions about what they would like to see solutions to. Discuss your project with them and inquire about their feedback and unique insights into the usefulness of your work. Once you have a clear idea of what policy problems your project can tackle, lead with it. Keep in mind that a policy problem is not always the same as a scientific problem.