Strengthening leadership for policy engagement is one of the four strategic aims of the Oxford Policy Engagement Network (OPEN), and is key to achieving the other three:
- Improving access for the policymaking community to the best available research evidence and expertise at Oxford, and supporting its use in decision-making;
- Deepening our understanding of how research can inform policymaking, and developing the skills catalyse that process; and
- Creating and developing more opportunities for engagement, including through participation in relevant networks.
In March 2021, following an open call, five OPEN Leaders were appointed and subsequently led initiatives that contributed to the aims above, for the benefit of OPEN members and others across the University. We spoke to them about their plans and achievements, implemented with funding from Research England’s Higher Education Innovation Fund.
Meet our first cohort of OPEN Leaders:
Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, Faculty of Classics
Arlene used her award to build capacity in, and outside, the faculty, including through organisation of training for OPEN members to better understand the risks and benefits of social media in policy engagement. She also strengthened connections with researchers across Oxford with an interest in languages education policy.
Arlene says, 'As an OPEN Leader, I have supported colleagues across the Humanities Division with their policy engagement ambitions. Communication, collaboration and knowledge exchange have been central to our collective success.'
Dr Olga Ioannidou, Research Officer, Department of Education
Olga used her award to build consensus among departmental colleagues on how better to support and pursue policy engagement, including through organisation of panel discussions of different ways in which research informs educational policy in, and outside, the UK.
'This award has helped me to develop skills and a deeper understanding of the factors that make effective engagement possible,' Olga reports. 'With support from colleagues in the department and divisional office, as well as the Policy Engagement Team, I’ve also been able to widen our network in the policymaking community.'
Dr Jasper Montana, School of Geography and the Environment
Leading a team of three, and drawing on the wealth of experience in the Oxford Biodiversity Network, Jasper used his award to organise a series of seminars and a workshop exploring the opportunities and challenges of engaging with policy for nature and biodiversity.
'The engagement of more than 30 Oxford researchers showed the general appetite for skills-development in policy engagement', Jasper concluded. 'I was really pleased to co-develop guidance from the seminars, and ideas from the workshop as resources to support future policy engagement at Oxford. It was great to connect with other OPEN Leaders and be supported by the Policy Engagement Team.'
Dr Catherine Wheatley, Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging (WIN)/Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences
Catherine used her award to organise four training sessions, including a masterclass exploring how research has shaped clinical guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence relating to mental health care. She is now WIN’s focal point for policy engagement.
'This award gave me the opportunity to consult widely with colleagues across WIN and raise the profile of policy engagement with its management board,' said Catherine. 'It has contributed to my professional development, and given others skills that they have already used to respond to a parliamentary inquiry.'
Dr Abigail Adams-Prassl, Department of Economics
Abi’s plans include an interdisciplinary workshop on engaging with the UK Parliament, improving the visibility of policy-engaged researchers, and embedding engagement into departmental strategies and plans.
On her appointment as an OPEN Leader, Abi says, ‘I’m really excited – this will enable me to share with, and learn from, policy-focused colleagues at all career stages from across the University.’