Friday, 20 April 2012

Reaching the parts of government research may not normally reach

One of the really enjoyable things about my job is that I get invited to all kinds of events organised by Relu projects, and meet not only scientists who are enthusiastic about the research, but some of the people who could use it or benefit from it. In the jargon of our time, of course, they are stakeholders. In real life they could be from government departments like Defra, from local government, from third sector organisations such as the National Trust, they could be people involved in running National Parks or AONBs, or they may be from the private sector. This week I went to an event where researchers from Relu's "Improving the Success of Agri Environment Schemes" project were reporting back to some of their stakeholders. People from a whole range of organisations were there, but also some real life farmers. I was impressed that they had given up their time in such a busy month of the year to attend, and their enthusiasm for the work that has been carried out was palpable. During the discussion they were certainly vocal, and it was clear that they had contributed a huge amount to the development of the project. They had their own ideas about how farmers contribute to protecting our environment, what the weaknesses are in current schemes and how they could be more effective. And quite reasonably they were asking: what next for this research? It's a very good question. The next stage for me is to help the team produce a policy and practice note in our regular series. That will attempt to draw out the points we want to make in an accessible and focused way and it is very different from the academic papers the team are producing. But we also need to make sure that we use the policy and practice note, and other communications, to take the message to the people who can influence government and probably also European policy. That is always challenging but it's what we try to do with all Relu research. It's particularly important when busy stakeholders have given their time to make it happen. They must be able to see that they have helped to make a difference.

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