Communicating Science for Policy – Practice-led Education

Washbourne, C-L;


Communicating Science for Policy – Practice-led Education.

Presented at: Science in Public Conference 2019, Manchester, UK.


Science communication is a key element in the formal and informal advisory systems that can inform successful decision-making. Effective science communication in policy settings, imbued with their own specific priorities and pacing, requires the development of a range of specific competencies and skills and a capability for reflective practice. The perceived interest in policy engagement from the ‘supply side’ of science communication is increasing. Universities, learned societies, and policy institutions themselves, are developing guidance for scientists across all fields interested in engaging decision-making audiences. There is an increasing provision of educational courses, seeking to equip those working in this space. The development of a practice-led masters-level module on ‘Communicating Science for Policy’, at University College London, was one response to this interest. Recognising that specific communication approaches will vary from setting to setting, the module focusses on practical instruction in science communication applied across formats common to policy-making (written and oral briefings, press interviews, debates). It uses reflective practice across these formats to emphasise the role of science advisors in decision-making more generally. It also seeks to develop understanding in, and curiosity around, the roles of media and public in influencing the communication of science for policy. This talk reflects on the challenges and insights encountered in developing ‘Communicating Science for Policy’. The experience provided a useful lens through which to grapple with understanding the personal and professional knowledge and skills required for successful engagements in policy-making settings and consider possible futures of education in this area.

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