By: Keisha Solomon
Plenary speakers: Austin Frakt, Margot Sanger-Katz, Heather Howard
This report provides a summary of the plenary session held to provide advice on how health economists can talk to policymakers and the media. This plenary session was structured around three main questions:
- How to promote your research?
- How to reach the media?
- How to reach policymakers?
How to promote your research?
Several advices emerged from this discussion. First, it is important to effectively communicate what you are doing for policymakers to be interested in your research and for non-experts to understand your research. Researchers can improve such communication skills by finding a writer whose writing style they wish to emulate and using that writer’s style to measure the distance between what the researcher is writing and would like to write. Second, research should be promoted when it is relevant to a policy discussion and thus should be promoted even if it was written years ago. Third, summarize the importance of your research in a very concise format (about three sentences) when approaching policymakers and the press.
How to reach the media?
The key recurring themes from this discussion were reporters are interested in answering good questions and learning about new events. New events include what is currently happening and new ways of understanding events that researchers thought they understood. During this discussion, researchers were advised to practice writing headlines stating the importance of their research and to contact media at different stages of their research progress. The final product of a study may be improved if the researcher contacts the media in the study’s draft stage since the journalist may highlight additional important issues for the researcher to consider.
How to reach policymakers?
Much of the discussion focused on the importance of building a relationship with the policymakers and learning the policy lifecycle. For researchers to increase their likelihood of having the opportunity of engaging with policymakers, it is important to know the policymaker’s agenda and the policy cycle. To build relationships with policymakers, researchers should communicate clearly what they mean and want, communicate when they have work that is relevant to an agency, provide incremental updates on research progress, and be patient and persistent.
All speakers emphasized the need to practice writing when conveying nuances in research to policymakers and press, promote your research using twitter and emails, and have timely communication with policymakers.