Together with the Journal of Science Policy & Governance (JSPG), the GYA’s Science Advice Working Group held a joint virtual science policy memo writing workshop for early career researchers all across the globe in May 2021. The workshop aimed to equip early career researchers with the essential tools needed to write effective policy memos. Over the course of two days, the workshop gave participants the opportunity to draft an outline of a science policy memo and receive feedback from policy experts. 70 participants from over 20 different countries came together across time zones to develop skills for writing science policy memos on topics related to the 2021 GYA Annual Conference theme “Trust in Science.”
The workshop began with a keynote presentation by Doyin Odubanjo, Executive Secretary at the Nigerian Academy of Science. JSPG’s Director of U.S. Outreach, Nicole Parker, provided participants with an overview of the journal and opportunities to publish. This was followed by a presentation from GYA member Felix Moronta Barrios (International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Italy) introducing the GYA and the Science Advice Working Group.
The keynote presentation by Doyin Odubanjo focused on the intersection between science and policy making. He provided several tips on how to write an effective policy memo including but not limited to using simple language, providing evidence, and being succinct. Throughout the presentation, he emphasized the importance of knowing your audience and conducting stakeholder analysis prior to writing the memo. The presentation also included several case studies from the Nigerian Academy of Science to emphasize writing skills.
Participants also had the opportunity to work in groups, to develop outlines for their science policy memos on “Transforming Food Systems: Public Trust and Engagement to Reach the UN SDGs” and “Science Policy Advice – Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic.” These were two of several topics for the 2021 GYA Annual Conference on “Trust in Science.” Both topics resulted in a robust discussion led by moderators, four of whom were GYA members: Tolu Oni (University of Cambridge, UK), Markus Prutsch (European Parliament / Heidelberg University, Germany), Pradeep Kumar (Wits University, South Africa), and Felix Moronta Barrios (ICGEB, Italy).
The participants were able to draft a memo outline on Day 1, which was reviewed on Day 2 for expert feedback. Among the supporting experts were GYA alumni Vidushi Neergheen (University of Mauritius), Ghada Bassioni (Ain Shams University, Egypt), Shaheen Motala-Timol (Tertiary Education Commission, Mauritius) and GYA member Stefan Kohler (Heidelberg University, Germany).
The workshop was extremely helpful in building confidence for participants in writing an effective and impactful science policy memo. A post-workshop survey showed an overwhelmingly positive response to the workshop. Two anonymous impressions from the survey:
“This was my first time attending a workshop on Policy Memo writing. I was always very confused and irritated by the way the information on the internet is available but this workshop cleared all my doubts and removed the barrier for starting to write a memo about my own research area.”
“I really appreciated breaking the memo down into key parts to get us thinking and make it easier to tackle. I was worried that the breakout rooms were going to be awkward/hard to engage with but they ended up being great! Small groups with a clear moderator and clear format/goals really helped.”
If you’re interested in writing a science policy memo, submit your ideas to the next JSPG standard issue by 14 November 2021.