Surfacing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion within Academic-Policy Engagement

Surfacing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion within Academic-Policy Engagement

University Policy Engagement Network (2021) Surfacing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion within Academic‑Policy Engagement.

No abstract

This is a report from a recently established UK network, University Policy Engagement Network (UPEN). UPEN “is a community of UK universities, academics, and policy professionals committed to increasing the impact of research on public policy at a local, regional, national, and international level.” They undertook a survey of their membership in early 2020 (pre-pandemic) and 29 institutional members responded. It captures a snapshot of the status of EDI considerations in academic research policy engagement. It sought to address two primary questions

  1. What would ‘good’ academic-policy engagement look like if EDI was front and centre?
  2. What is the biggest change you’d like to see to achieve EDI in academic-policy engagement?

The report seems to be focused on the experiences of knowledge brokers at UPEN member universities. From the report, “Support for policy engagement is often provided by academic-related staff known informally as ‘knowledge brokers’. These brokers are the conduit between policy professionals and the academic expert; they seek out and funnel opportunities to researchers within their organisation and encourage active engagement with the key policy players in the researcher’s area of expertise.” The term “academic related” is not clear to me. Are these folks with an academic appointment or are they professional staff hired by their universities to act as policy intermediaries? I am guessing a combination since some of the quotes in the preface are attributed to “professor” and others are attributed to knowledge brokers and other professional sounding titles.

Some observations from reading this report:

  • The integration of EDI and policy engagement is just beginning, is sporadic and “people are unsure where to start
  • There is poor data capture so it is hard to draw conclusions
  • When identifying researchers for a policy engagement opportunity the knowledge brokers often relied on the same experts
  • EDI is not routinely considered when allocating impact funding
  • The UK Research Excellence Framework can influence who is considered for policy engagement opportunities and creates challenges for EDI considerations

The report makes several recommendations for UPEN committees (the groups doing the work of UPEN) and for UPEN member institutions. These recommendations are detailed on page 13 of the report. In brief:

  • for UPEN Committees: create space; develop a set of EDI principles; deliver training; raise awareness of need for good data; work with funders to examine incentive structures to build culture of policy engagement.
  • For UPEN institutions: understand barriers to policy engagement for diverse groups; ensure policy engagement opportunities are available to all; share examples of best practice

All good. Nothing surprising. Devil is in the details. These recommendations describe what UPEN thinks should happen. How to do them and then doing them in different institutional contexts will be a bigger challenge. But this report identifying the aspirational goals is an important first step.

It would have been nice to know the EDI characteristics of the 29 respondents and more broadly members active in the UPEN Network. If UPEN is advocating for its member institutions, they could lead by example.

Questions for brokers:

  1. This report is specific to academic/policy engagement. Is it generalizable to engagement with industry and community organizations?
  2. What are you doing to ensure knowledge mobilization services/activities are available and accessible to people from diverse groups?
  3. What supports do you need to enhance the integration of EDI principles in knowledge mobilization?

Research Impact Canada is producing this journal club series to make evidence on KMb more accessible to knowledge brokers and to create online discussion about research on knowledge mobilization. It is designed for knowledge brokers and other knowledge mobilization stakeholders. Read this open access article. Then come back to this post and join the journal club by posting your comments.