The following resources have been designed with two main aims:

1. to facilitate groups in replicating the ‘Policy Stories’ workshop using their own speakers and/or the videos provided for different groups of PhD and Early Career researchers in the Arts and Humanities.

2. to give individuals the opportunity to access the live content from the Policy Stories training and use the discussion points to reflect on their own research and its implications for policy-making.

With these two aims in mind each of the videos is accompanied by discussion points and/or workshop instructions.

An interactive PDF is available to download here for offline access to the films and resource: SGSAH Policy Stories Offline Resource. To view interactive elements of the PDF you will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader and Adobe Flash Player downloaded.

You may wish to read, reflect on and discuss some of the following articles about public policy and Arts and Humanities research before you begin or as you work through each of the workshops:

‘Why academics should learn how to influence government policy?’, Chris O’Brien, The Guardian 07-07-2011

‘Three ways academic research can influence civil service policy’, Simon Burgess, The Guardian 24-09-2011

‘Improving your capacity to influence government policy: networking, presentation, and integrity’, Liz Carolan, LSE Blogs 16-05-2011

‘How Arts and Humanities Can Influence Public Policy’, Jules Evans, The Huffington Post 19-02-2013


1. What do we mean by policy? – Professor Philip Schlesinger
2. Knowledge Exchange – Professor Philip Schlesinger
3. Impact Case Studies and The Citizen Research – Professor Philip Schlesinger
4. Policy Case Study – Dr Annie Tindley
5. Tips and Lessons – Dr Annie Tindley
6. Brief the Minister – Professor Michael Russell
7. Using Storytelling Techniques To Communicate Research – Marion Kenny
8.Storytelling and Policy-Making – Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)’Detention Without Walls’
9. Engaging with Cultural Organisations – Mark O’Neill, Stuart MacDonald and Jane Donald

1. What do we mean by policy? – Professor Philip Schlesinger, University of Glasgow

Professor Philip Schlesinger describes what policy is and how researchers can engage with policy-making.


To think about what public and cultural policy is, how your research could influence policy and to begin to think about how best to communicate your research to a non-specialist audience.

Discussion Points:

  1. Philip Schlesinger defines ‘public policy’ at the beginning of his discussion. What do you understand by the term ‘public policy’?
  2. Schlesinger defines ‘cultural policy’ as bringing ‘diverse ways of life and modes of cultural production, distribution and consumption into relation with the institutionalised form of the state’. Do you agree with this definition? Why/why not? Are there any competing or complimentary definitions?
  3. What do you understand by policy-focused research? Would you describe your own research in this way? If not would you describe it as ‘of policy-interest’?
  4.  How could you turn your research into something which has ‘a wider public value’? How can you communicate your research in the public domain?
  5. What are the potentials and limitations of your research in a policy context?


Professor Philip Schlesinger  talks about translating research into the public domain for a non-specialist audience and acting on your knowledge in a non-academic setting. He also addresses the key point that not all research may be obviously policy-relevant, but that it may still be ‘of policy-interest‘.

Begin by briefly summarising your own research orally in small groups or in writing and think about the ways in which it might be either policy-relevant or of policy-interest. Having thought about and discussed this, which of the two approaches below is most relevant to you?:

  1. Translating your research for a non-specialist audience in the public domain
  2. Acting on your knowledge in a non-academic setting

Reflect on the potentials and limitations of each of these approaches and what key points you would have to take into consideration when communicating your research in each of these two scenarios. For example, social media and blogging may be a more useful approach in the first scenario, while the second scenario may involve writing briefs or reports: what do considerations you have to make in the type of language used in each of these types of writing? How do they differ and where are they the same?


Having decided which of the two approaches is more relevant to your own work, write a brief report or blog post (whichever is more relevant to your own research) about your current research project in the appropriate style. Share it with a colleague or a friend working in a different field to get their view of how it reads.

2. Knowledge Exchange – Professor Philip Schlesinger, University of Glasgow

Professor Philip Schlesinger discusses Knowledge Exchange.


To understand what is meant by knowledge exchange and reflect on some of the challenges associated with it.

Discussion Points:

  1. What do you understand by the term ‘knowledge exchange’ and why might it be more complicated than people think?
  2. How do you, or would you, handle the increased demands on your time and continuing obligations associated with knowledge exchange projects?
  3. Philip Schlesinger discusses the ’emotional labour’ of knowledge exchange. What is your experience of this? What ’emotional labour’ do you foresee in engaging with knowledge exchange projects? What approaches and resources would you use to help you deal with this particular aspect of research?
  4. What skills might you need before embarking on a knowledge exchange project? How would you go about acquiring these?

3. Impact Case Studies and The Citizen Researcher – Professor Philip Schlesinger, University of Glasgow

Professor Philip Schlesinger discusses the idea of the ‘citizen researcher’ and his experience of writing an impact case study. Click here for examples of REF 2014 impact case studies.


To understand what is meant by ‘impact’ and reflect on your own motivations for engaging with the public.

Discussion Points:

1.  What do you think Schlesinger means by ‘citizen researchers’ or ‘researcher citizens’?

2. What are your own motivations for engaging with the public about your research?

3. What do you think are the ‘right imperatives’ when doing public engagement work or discussing the impact of Arts and Humanities research?


Choose one of the REF 2014 impact case studies in your own field. Discuss or note down the key details of the impact achieved, the research underpinning the impact and any activities/outcomes. Where in your university might you be able to find support to develop impact case studies?


Write a short impact case study on an activity or outcome from your own research (actual, planned or hypothetical) in the same style as one of the REF 2014 case studies.

Reflecting on this process, what did you find easy/difficult?

4. Policy Case Study – Dr Annie Tindley, University of Dundee

Dr Annie Tindley discusses her project: ‘Using history to inform the future of remote and rural healthcare: the Dewar Committee and the Highlands and Islands Medical Service, 1912-2012’, a case study in using Arts and Humanities research to inform public policy.


To think about how an element of your own research could have an impact on an important issue today.

Discussion Points

  1. What contemporary issues could your research be relevant to?
  2. What would you need to be particularly aware of when applying your research to a problem?
  3. How could you avoid overstating the relevancy of your research? What caveats might you have to include?


Having watched Annie Tindley’s video and discussed the points above, think about how an aspect of your own research might translate into a policy-relevant project.


Create a mock proposal for a policy-relevant project based on an aspect of your own research. Outline the underlying research, the project’s aims and expected outcomes.

5. Tips and Lessons for Policy-Relevant Research – Dr Annie Tindley, University of Dundee

Dr Annie Tindley discusses the key tips and lessons from her policy-relevant work.


To reflect on the challenges and opportunities involved in policy-relevant research.

Discussion Points

  1. Having heard Annie Tindley’s key lessons, what do you think the main challenges would be for you in undertaking this type of project?
  2. What would your own aims and expectations be in taking part in the type of project Tindley discusses?


What are the most important points from Tindley’s key lessons for you? Discuss and/or note these down.


Annie Tindley recommends being able to sum up your research in one sentence. Craft a single sentence which reflects the essentials of your PhD or current research project. Share it with the group or colleagues to test it. You can film yourself with your phone if you like!

6. Brief the Minister – Professor Michael Russell, MSP

Professor Michael Russell discusses policy and how researchers can communicate with politicians.


To understand what policy means to ministers and how you can best communicate your research to policy-makers.

Discussion Points

  1. What do you think is meant by ‘evidence-based policy’?
  2. What evidence from your research could be used to inform or influence current policy?
  3. What advantages does ‘evidence-based policy’ have over ‘ideologically-driven’ or ‘vision-focused’ policy?


Michael Russell outlines the ‘policy journey’ for communicating your research to policy-makers and eventually influencing policy. Listen to the students’ policy pitches below and discuss/reflect on any paricularly good points and any points for improvement.

Ben Redman from  the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland discusses music education provision and emerging technologies.

Jacinta Birchley, University of Aberdeen, discusses education policy.

Beth Pearson from the University of Glasgow discuss Human Rights culture and the media.

Carley Williams, University of Aberdeen, discusses UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Matluba Khan, University of Edinburgh, discusses outdoor education spaces in Scotland and Bangladesh.

Helen Shallow from the University of the West of Scotland discusses national maternity service policy.

Jennifer Farrar from the University of Glasgow discusses critical literacy in Curriculum for Excellence.

Claire Hawes from the University of St Andrews asks how research on, and an understanding of, Scotland’s history could influence policy today.

Roseannah Murphy, University of Glasgow, asks what approach policy-makers take in evaluating qualitiative evidence.


Practice your own policy pitch in groups, try to do this without too much forward-planning. Imagine that you meet a minister at an event and you have just a couple of minutes of his time.What do you need to get across?

7. Using Storytelling Techniques To Communicate Research – Marion Kenny


To think about the role of stories and storytelling techniques in communicating research with a non-specialist audience and to practice these techniques.

At the Scottish Storytelling Centre professional storyteller Marion Kenny ran a wonderful storytelling workshop which iterated the importance of stories in communicating research to a non-specialist audience. She began by telling a  25-minute story and then asked the delegates to re-tell it to each other in small groups of five or six. Then, she gathered the whole group back together, and in a round robin, had them each one at a time, jump up to the hot seat to tell the story, as they envisioned it, to the whole group.

Marion Kenny drew particular attention to the ‘Qisetna: Talking Syria’ project which provides a non-political platform for people who have a close link to Syria to tell their own stories.

Discussion Points

  1. Why might stories be a particularly powerful way to communicate your research?
  2. What stories are there in your own research? Any interesting characters or tales?
  3. What ethical concerns would you need to keep in mind when telling other people’s stories?
  4. How else might you incorporate storytelling techniques into the communication of your research?


Reflect on or discuss the last talk, paper or presentation you gave. How do you feel it went? Do you think your audience was engaged? What aids did you use: notes, script, powerpoint etc.? What improvements could you make?

Marion Kenny suggested giving your next paper or talk without notes. This could be a nerve-wracking experience for early-career researchers. How might you get to the point where you are confident in giving a talk with minimal aids? Discuss or reflect on any techniques you already use and how you could change these to deliver a more powerful presentation.

Watch Ken Robinson‘s TED Talk ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ and discuss or reflect on the following:

  1. What presentation techniques does he use?
  2. How does he use storytelling to engage his audience?
  3. Why is this effective?


Choose a story from your own research or take an aspect of your research which would lend itself well to storytelling techniques. Note the key points you want to communicate with your audience. What do you want them to take away from your talk?

Practice telling your story to yourself before delivering it to an audience. You could do this with a small group of other students and ask for honest feedback on your delivery as well as the content of your presentation.

8. Storytelling and Policy-Making –  Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet) ‘Detention Without Walls’

On the evening of the first day of ‘Policy Stories’, delegates were shown the following film which was created by GRAMNet in collaboration with Scottish Detainee Visitors, a campaigning and befriending group that visit Dungavel House Immigration Removal Centre. It was funded by the University of Glasgow Settlement Find A Solution Fund and the Geographies of Justice Research Group at Newcastle University.

Detention Without Walls is a self-portrait of people caught in the cracks, between borders, without status.” (Bridget Holtom, 29th February 2016, Lacuna Magazine)

The documentary film is made up of interviews, poems, photos and materials collected through a participatory research project and tells the story of individuals moving from immigration detention to life outside of the detention centre.

“Abandoned at train stations, separated from family and friends, unable to work or travel, fearful of return but determined to stay in the UK, the film explores how ideas of crime, citizenship and community combine in ways that multiply rather than remove the differences between us.” (Bridget Holtom, 29th February 2016, Lacuna Magazine)

The GRAMNet video is an example of how stories can be used to talk about policy. It can be watched in conjunction with the activites in 7. Using Storytelling Techniques To Communicate Research – Marion Kenny.

9. Engaging with Cultural Organisations – Mark O’Neill, Stuart MacDonald and Jane Donald

Mark O’Neill, Director of Policy, Research and Development at Glasgow Life, discusses the stories that Glasgow tells about itself and the role Glasgow Life plays in the cultural life of the city.

Jane Donald, Director of External Relations at Royal Scotland National Orchestra, discusses external and internal policy-making in cultural organisations.

Stuart MacDonald, Founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Cultural Relations, University of Edinburgh, discusses cultural policy.

Discussion Points

  1. Which policy organisation(s) might be most relevant to your research?
  2. How might you go about identifying and contacting them?


Create a list of at least three individual named people who might have an interest in your policy research.  Draft a ‘cold-call’ email for each of them, taking into consideration their specific interest and how you might have to alter/amend your approach for each.