Using psychological insights to communicate with policymakers

This week on Power to Persuade, we are focusing on 'Impact'—how can academic research make a contribution to society? How can it influence the development of policy, practice or service provision? In today's post, Paul Cairney and Richard Kwiatkowski explore the importance of using insights from psychological science to effectively communicate research to policymakers. A modified version of this post originally appeared on Paul's blog.

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What do we actually do when we do impact?

'Impact' is a fickle concept. We talk about it a lot, but what does it really mean? What form does it take in practice? And what can we do, as researchers and policymakers, to support its emergence? Impact is our theme this week on Power to Persuade. To kick us off, today's post by University of Stirling Senior Lecturer Dr Peter Matthews (@urbaneprofessor) reports on new research from the United Kingdom that explores how academics perceive barriers to achieving impact. This post originally appeared on Peter's blog and has been edited for length.

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Why is mental health a topic pertinent to all contemporary public policy?

In the UK in particular, but also in Australia, debate about mental health and mental illness are increasingly appearing on political agendas and appearing in the mainstream media. Whilst there is a concerted effort to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness, mental health and illness remain largely located in health focused policy debates. In the post below, Dr Sarah-Jane Fenton looks at why mental health is a topic pertinent to all contemporary public policy, and uses highlights from recent blog posts to show how embedding understanding of mental health issues should be central to all policy maker’s agendas.

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Awareness raising of Male eating disorders in the UK

NHS statistics released this week documented that eating disorders in men have increased by 70% in the UK, finding that these illnesses are rising at the same rate in young men as they are in young women. The media has been inundated with headlines discussing this rise in male eating disorders pointing towards causes such as social media and rise of body image pressures on men and boys within modern society as a way to understand this phenomenon. While there is no doubt that such issues may have an influence on such a sharp rise in men experiencing such illnesses, male eating disorders are not a new phenomenon, simply one that has been “underdiagnosed, undertreated, and misunderstood” (Strother, Lemberg & Tuberville, 2012). A study in 2007 estimated that up to 25% of individuals with eating disorders were male, with underdiagnoses being debated due to the low number of men within services.

Research into the reasons why people develop these illnesses have developed steadily in recent years with evidence suggesting that the similarities outweigh the differences between genders with regards to the core features and psychology of eating disorders. With treatment outcomes reported as equally successful for men as for women, Dr Una Foye asks the question remains why this “sudden” increase?

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Short circuit: how brutal retail politics derailed energy policy (& how to get it back on track)

State and Federal Energy Ministers get together a few times a year at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council to decide (or not, as the case may be) on a collaborative approach to national energy policy.

As a consumer representative in the energy policy process, Dean Lombard attends the Stakeholder Roundtables held before each meeting so lobbyists and advocates can ask questions of or make suggestions to the Ministers and bureaucrats.

In this post, he looks at what has short-circuited good energy policy process in Australia and what needs to be done – by social policy researchers and analysts and citizens and voters – to find a way forward.

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