Getting your research into Parliament: what, why, and how

Parliament would like researchers to engage with them: last week they unveiled a new website with guidance for researchers wanting to share their work. I give you the rundown below – if you would like to explore the release in full head over to their webpages.

Editorial edit (10/01/2018): Parliament have now released their ‘Topics of Interest’ report for 2018.


Why might you want to engage with parliament?

  1. To shape and change policy and the policy agenda.
  2. To have demonstrable research impact.
  3. To raise the profile of your research and broaden its dissemination.
  4. Your research may help MPs and Members of the House of Lords to scrutinise Government policy, debate pressing issues of the day, and pass laws.
  5. To develop new research projects shaped by real-world questions.
  6. It may help you attract project funding – both indirectly, through raised profile and significant evidence of impact, and directly: a number of colleagues at Kent have been commissioned by government departments as project consultants.

Examples of where Kent research have successfully changed/are having an impact on policy include Kent Law School’s Dr Kirsty Horsey. Dr Horsey’s work on Surrogacy law significantly contributed to a governmental remedial order announced last week; by identifying where policy is outdated or has significant gaps your research may pave the way towards change.

Also this year, SECL’s Professor Gordon Lynch has been presenting evidence as an expert witness to the on-going Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation of the sexual abuse of British of more than 3000 children sent overseas after the end of the Second World War – read the story here.


What sort of research is parliament interested in?

‘Parliamentarians and parliamentary staff are generally interested in research that is relevant to current issues on the parliamentary agenda. In addition, MPs are interested in research related to issues that affect their constituents.

Parliament may also be interested in research conclusions that do not map directly onto parliamentary business or the Government’s current agenda, if the researcher feels the findings reveal a need for policy change or action.’

  1. There are a number of open calls for evidence.
  2. Check the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s current and planned programmes.
  3. Consult the calendar of scheduled business in Parliament. You can sign up to receive alerts here.
  4. Keep an eye on petitions, PMQs and early motions (Parliament also keeps a record of everything said in parliament – Hansard, if you want to check whether a topic has ever been discussed).

Even if your research is not something that parliament is looking at right now, this may change – and if you think your research is something that needs to be discussed now, take it to them. 


OK, fine – how do I do this?

The LSE impact blog posted a useful article in January this year titled: ‘‘Rubbing shoulders’: an understanding of networks, relationships and everyday practices is key to parliamentary engagement’. Invite key parliament supporters of your cause along to your Workshop or eventsend them copies of your research report and ask them to let you know if and how they use it. Not only are you potentially affecting policy – you’re also building evidence for your REF case study, which is much easier to do as you go along than needing to ask people in 2020 what impact your 2017 report had for them.

Taylor & Francis recently released this infographic on getting your research seen by parliament. I’d say the 3 top tips are:

  1. Be relevant: start with a summary and focus on how your research impacts people.
  2. Follow what parliament members are doing via the website or individual twitter feeds / sign up to post alerts.
  3. Make sure the relevant people can find you online and at events (and invite them to your events).

Parliament have released how-to-guides on writing for parliament, including writing policy briefs and submitting evidence to parliamentary committees. Read these here and contact us if you need any support.

For more information, see Parliament UK’s page on ways to engage with Parliament.

Parliament’s training opportunities

The government offers free online courses on engaging with parliament – current topics include government petitions and ‘Processes and public participation’.  There is also a monthly course titled “Research, Impact and the UK Parliament” for which there is a small charge. Other opportunities, including a small number of fellowships, are available – see all opportunities here.  Talk to us if any of these are of interest.

Let us know…

If you have worked with Parliament before and are happy to share your story, or if you are keen to engage with them, please contact us!