knowledge mobilization

Knowledge Mobilizers: SFU equips emerging research leaders with skills for informing policy

October 07, 2021

This summer, the SFU Knowledge Mobilization Hub piloted Research Meets Policy @ SFU (RMP@SFU), a new, virtual summer institute for 30 select graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The weeklong institute covered concepts and strategies for communicating research to policymakers. Special guests from all levels of government shared their stories and experiences of policy development.

We caught up with two RMP@SFU fellows, Courtney Onstad, a doctoral student in the Department of Earth Sciences, and Numaira Obaid, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, to hear about their motivations for learning about communicating research to inform policy and their experience of the program.

1.    What inspired you to attend RMP@SFU?

Courtney Onstad

Courtney Onstad: I was recently introduced to the idea that research and policy can and should be strongly interconnected. Within my discipline, I am not sure how well this is being done. Policy has always been a mystery to me, but I know it is important to making positive changes.

Numaira Obaid: I have been doing research at different universities for quite a few years now. I reached a point where conventional dissemination – publications and presentation to other scientists – felt insufficient to me. When I came across the RMP@SFU program, it felt like the perfect opportunity. Policy was an application of my research that I had never considered before.

2.    How did RMP@SFU differ from other learning experiences you’ve had?

Numaria Obaid

CO: Science communication workshops are great; however, many just scratch the surface. I wanted a course that took the next step. RMP@SFU met that need. We were provided specific communication tools to use, practiced using them, and received feedback on how we used them. And we got to learn about real-life experiences in policy from individuals of varying backgrounds.

NO: The program was very hands-on and provided concrete steps to access the policy space. As an academic, I have received significant training on how to effectively communicate my research, but the emphasis has been on me and my story. This program emphasized the audience, and how they read and experience my research story. This changed my perspective on technical writing and is something I will consider in my dissemination activities.

3.    What is one main takeaway that you learned about the connection between research and policy in RMP@SFU that you think other graduate students should know?

CO: Policy-makers are not one uniform audience. Communication, especially in policy, is very targeted. Knowing individuals’ background information, where they are located, the level of government they work at, and what matters to their supporters are essential considerations when planning your communication.

NO: Research integrates well into a policy space. Making policies and advocating for policy-focused issues stems from a fundamental understanding of the problem and methods by which they can be solved. Having research expertise is valuable in informing the policy-making process.

4.    What do you think you will do differently because of what you learned?

CO: I will seek to determine what policies exist within my field and determine if my research can address any gaps in current policies. I’d also like to be more intentional with my communication. Thanks to RMP@SFU, I feel empowered and hope to share my future research findings through Op-Eds, Research Briefs, and media outlets.

NO: After RMP@SFU, I want to diversify my modes of knowledge dissemination and I have the tools and guidance to use other platforms such as The Conversation Canada. I want to better integrate these modes of communication into my dissemination activities, to produce a more holistic impact with my research.

The RMP@SFU 2021 cohort was full of keen and passionate researchers. We will be following these emerging knowledge mobilization leaders and anticipate seeing their work in various venues and polices in the coming years.

Inspired to learn how to expand your research impact? See the SFU KM Hub fall line of workshops, book a consultation with our Knowledge Mobilization Officer, and subscribe to stay informed on RMP@SFU 2022 and more.

Knowledge Mobilizers is a story series from the Knowledge Mobilization Hub that highlights knowledge mobilization (KM) projects around the university. At SFU, KM is about collaborating on, and exchanging, research discoveries to create a positive impact in our far-reaching communities.