Presenting Science for Policy

Brandon Ray

Overview

In a traditional education context, there is a tendency to focus on academic areas in the silo-ed approach with limited ability to work across disciplines. There are very few “science communication” courses available to undergraduates – and of those that exist, most are focused on communicating to scientific audiences or do not incorporate much practical experience (the same is also true at the graduate level). Thus, most students who do not pursue a purely academic career are left at a disadvantage. Those who work for government agencies or non-governmental organizations will be required to work in the domain of policy or, at a minimum, policy-relevant. This module is designed for students to gain exposure to different formats and styles for communicating climate science (i.e. designed for different audiences). This will give the undergraduates exposure on how to turn their research into something upon which policy-makers can act. Although this module is being tested in ATM/OCN/ESS 475 at the University of Washington, it can be revised for different topics and used in the seminar series every year or incorporated into other classes. Created by Brandon Ray, UW School of Marine and Environmental Affairs.

Focus Questions

  1. What is policy? What are some attributes of public policy?
  2. What does policy-relevant mean?
  3. What are attributes to be used in policy-relevant writing?
  4. What are attributes to be used in policy-relevant speeches?

Performance Expectations

Students will be able to:

  1. Describe public policy
  2. Define the levels of policy relevance
  3. Describe the style and techniques used in policy-relevant writing
  4. Describe the style and techniques used in policy-relevant speeches
  5. Write a policy-relevant paper based on their research interests
  6. Give a policy-relevant speech based on their research interests

Background Information

This module is created generically for the instructor to tailor to his/her class focus. The parts of the lesson the instructor will need to customize are bolded in the “Conducting the Lesson” section below. The resources that may be helpful for the instructor are located on slides 16-17 “Writing Policy for Science” and slide 12 of “Presenting Policy for Science” (linked below).

Prior Knowledge

This unit is designed as an introduction to policy and policy-relevant writing and presentation for scientists. It presumes no prior knowledge of public policy or writing/presentation skill and is intended to scaffold students through the activities.

Anticipated Challenges

Given that students generally don’t have any academic background with policy, they may be hesitant to provide answers. When requesting student input on various slides (e.g., M1.3, M1.8, M1.14), it would be beneficial to develop some questions related to your topic or area of expertise to highlight applicable portions.

Assessment

Students will be evaluated on their ability to incorporate the styles/ techniques of policy-relevant writing and speech to create a policy paper based on their research and then present their policy proposal. The rubrics are attached to each assignment.

Materials

Procedure

PREPARATION FOR INSTRUCTOR

Prep time for this module will be 6-8 hours to allow for review of PPTs and background materials, determine appropriate examples (as shown in bold in conducting lesson section), and to find useful policy paper samples for students to analyze.

MODULE 1

Slides 1-2 – overview to lesson

Slide 3 – Stop after showing the title of the slide and ask students what their definition of public policy is. There is no “right” answer, as the rest of the slide will show. Write the student answers down on the whiteboard,  so they can see how their answers compare to various academic conceptions. (5 min)

Slides 4-7 – Overview of public policy, policy processes, and policy-relevant definitions. Provide examples of various steps in policy processes, as well as of policy-relevant definitions. Examples will help make the distinction between steps and definitions very concrete. Slide 7 is motivation for case studies on slide 8. (10 min)

Slide 8 – Case Studies. You will need to find examples of policy one-pagers for the students to analyze. Pick two examples and show them to the class on the projector. Have students analyze what they like or dislike about it. This will simulate what government staffers will experience when forced to research a topic for their boss. Write the students’ perceptions on the whiteboard (this will be the start of a student-generated list of tips/techniques for writing the policy-white paper). For clarity, use two different colored markers for positive and negative traits. (10 min)

After walking through this exercise, break the students into groups of 2-4. Give each group another sample policy paper for them to analyze. Each group will be given 10 minutes to read the policy paper and discuss what they like and dislike about the paper. Then have each group present their paper, while displaying on the projector. Continue to document the student-generated tips/techniques on the whiteboard. After the lesson, these should be compiled to provide a resource to the students when working on their policy paper. (20 min)

Slides 9 -13 – Overview of policy papers, policy analysis, and writing techniques. The writing techniques should be compared to those the students generated. (20 min)

Slide 14 – In collaboration with the students, make a draft outline for a policy paper. Have the students suggest a topic (not one of their research topics) on which everyone can contribute. You should develop a couple of thematic areas in case the students are not forthcoming with suggestions. This is not intended to be a complete product, but merely to model the process the students must conduct on their policy paper assignment. (10 min)

Slide 15-17 – Quick overview of the assignment students will complete, as well as some resources for them to consult when preparing the policy paper. (5 min)

MODULE 2

Slides 1-5 – Overview of lesson and review (5 min)

Slide 6 – Case Studies. You will need to find examples of policy speeches for the students to analyze. Pick two examples and show them to the class on the projector. Have students analyze what they like or dislike about it. This will give the audience a perspective on how to deliver a message. Write the student’s perceptions on the whiteboard (this will be the start of a student-generated list of tips/techniques for presenting on policy-relevant topics) (15 min).

Example case studies:

Obama at Georgetown:

Video link (youtube)

Transcript

Grab: 1:00-2:00

Need: 4:00-5:30

Goal: 29:30-30:15

Conclusion: 46:40-end

Leonardo DiCaprio at the 2014 United Nations Climate Summit:

Video link (youtube)

Slides 7 -9 – Overview of oral presentation techniques. The speech techniques should be compared to those the students generated. (10 min)

Slide 10 – In collaboration with the students, you will make a draft outline for a policy speech. Use the same thematic area as for the draft policy paper in the previous module. You should develop a couple of thematic areas in case the students are not forthcoming with suggestions. This is not intended to be a complete product, but merely to model the process the students must conduct on their policy paper assignment. Once the outline is established, have the students develop a brief (1-2 min) speech. Ask several of the students to give their speeches to the class, ask students to give feedback. (25 min)

Slide 11-12 – Quick overview of the assignment students will complete, as well as some resources for them to consult when preparing their speech. (5 min)

 

Attribution:  Ray, Brandon. “Presenting Science for Policy” Climate Science for the Classroom edited by Bertram and Biyani, 2020. https://uw.pressbooks.pub/climate/chapter/presenting-science-for-policy Date of Access.

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