Social science and the media: how best to bridge journalism, research and policy?

A Transforming Evidence workshop

26 . 04 . 2021

Join us on Monday 24 May 2021, 13:00-14:15 BST.

Registration on Eventbrite.

The aim of this online event is to explore how we can grow a more supportive relationship between journalism, research and policy. At its best, the media can act as a valued intermediary, sifting the best and most relevant empirical thinking or new ideas to inform public policy and services (Weiss, 1988). Through clear and readable writing, film, sound, or infographics and data visualisations, journalists can help make research reach policy audiences.

However, the relationship has been complicated by new forms of internet communication. The growth of social media has weakened the gatekeeping role of traditional journalism amidst a ’collapse of the old news order and the chaos of contemporary public communication’ (Waisbord, 2018p.1868). During the COVID-19 pandemic, there were – and are - misperceptions that cascaded across parts of the internet about the cause, prevalence, and treatment of the disease (Swire-Thompson & Lazer, 2020). Whilst the mainstream media was mostly immune to much of the complex contagion of misinformation, there might be an agenda-setting power of fake news, as seen the 2016 pre-election coverage of Donald Trump.

Academics are also bypassing journalists and taking to their own personal blogging sites and Twitter. The 2021 Research Excellence Framework encourages active individual communication, and the UK Parliament welcomes academics that ‘increase your visibility’ through blogging and social media.

Yet despite the challenge to the traditional status of journalism, there have been many new or developed UK initiatives and organisations building stronger links between journalists and research, including the Science Media Centre, Full Fact, Britain in a Changing Europe, Education Media Centre, and the Conversation. This event will explore what more we can do to support the relationship between journalism, research and policy, and the role that intermediary organisations might play.

The meeting is part of a series organised by Transforming Evidence, an interdisciplinary collaboration aiming to share learning, connect communities and generate meaningful research about how we make and use evidence. This workshop aims to bring together academics, researchers, journalists and funders to discuss the current and potential role of the media in influencing the relationship between university research and policy.


13:00 Welcome and introduction to Transforming Evidence

Professor Annette Boaz, co-lead Transforming Evidence.

13:05 Introductions

Jonathan Breckon(Chair)

13:10 What more can social scientists do to provide relevant and high-quality news content?

David Walker, contributing editor Guardian Public, and ex-ESRC Board Member

13:20 The role of academic expertise in media debates on Europe in post-Brexit Britain

Professor Catherine Barnard FBA, Deputy Director, UK in Changing Europe.

13:30 Educational research for the media; how best to inform policymaking for schools?

Fran Abrams, Chief Executive, Education Media Centre.

13:40 Academic rigour and journalistic flair: what role can intermediary organisations play
between journalist, academics and policy makers?

David Levy,Trustee, The Conversation UK and Senior Research Associate,
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford

13:50 Chair leads discussion with speakers & audience Q&A

14:15 Finish

Speaker Biographies

Fran Abrams, Chief Executive, Education Media Centre. The centre is a charity run by journalists and dedicated to 'making evidence make news.' It aims to help build a stronger, more evidence-based education system by ensuring good research has a high profile in the media. Fran began reporting on education for the Birmingham Post and Mail in 1988, and went on to be Education Correspondent of the Sunday Times, the Sunday Correspondent, the Sunday Telegraph and the Independent. She later worked as Westminster Correspondent of the Independent, and for 15 years was part of the reporting team on BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme. In addition to her work with the Education Media Centre she now writes articles on education for The Guardian and other publications. Her six published books include three on education: Seven Kings, published by Atlantic Books in 2006, Learning to Fail, published by Routledge in 2010, and Refugee Education, published by Routledge in 2020.

Professor Catherine Barnard is Deputy Director, UK in a Changing Europe, a non-partisan think tank which does research and provides information about all aspects of Brexit. She is Professor of EU law and Employment Law and senior tutor and fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. She is a member of the European Commission funded European Labour Law Network (ELLN). She has appeared extensively on the main media channels - BBC, ITV and Sky - as well as some of the more specialist programmes such as Law in Action, Woman's Hour and the Briefing Room. She has also written for the Guardian and the Telegraph, and has her own podcast, 2903cb, and blogs on Brexit, mainly for the She has given evidence to numerous select committees on the legal issues connected with Brexit, immigration and the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

Dr David Levy is Trustee, the Conversation UK. He is currently Senior Research Associate at the University of Oxford's Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, following a decade as its director. His career has spanned broadcasting and academia and he has a particular interest in connecting research, policymaking and wider public debate. He previously worked at the BBC as a reporter, editor and Controller Public Policy.

David Walker is Chair at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. After a long career in journalism, including The Economist, The Times and the Guardian, he became director of public reporting at the Audit Commission. Other roles include Head of Policy at the Academy of Social Sciences and chair of the Economic and Social Research Council's methods and infrastructure committee. He is member of council at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an assessor on the sociology panel for 2021 Research Excellence Framework. His latest book, with Polly Toynbee, is The Lost Decade, Britain 2010-20.

Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

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