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How to communicate science to policy officials

The list below highlights tips on how scientists should communicate their research to policy workers.

  • Summarise what you want to say in no more than 3 bullet points. Policy workers’ lives are fast-paced and they do not have time to sift through long texts.
  • Use common language and explain yourself clearly. Your science needs to be explained without confusion, yet you must not talk down to policy workers or come across as patronising.
  • Practise communicating your science with people from outside your field. Valérie Masson-Delmotte (IPCC Working Group 1 Head) suggests to practice with teenagers as she says “You have to keep in mind that policy workers are not scientists. Many of them do not have a science background... When you do practise with teenagers, when they don’t understand you, you get very quick feedback”.
  • If you include graphics make sure they are simple and clear: use a maximum of three colours (advice from Panos Panagos, Research Scientist at the Joint Research Centre).
  • Remember timing is important. Science is only useful to policy workers when it is relevant. If you approach a scientist weeks or months after an event they will not be interested.
  • Try hard to be unbiased in communicating your science.
  • Do not advocate what should be done after you have provided scientific evidence. That is the role of the policy worker. A scientist’s role is to supply the current state of affairs for a particular topic. If you start to advocate a specific pathway you can appear biased, which may lead to your research becoming distrusted.
  • If you are clear and concise when explaining science to policy workers, then they will know you are a useful resource to contact, and so may ask for your assistance again in the future.

If you would like to suggest more tips in communicating science for policy purposes then please contact policy@egu.eu.

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