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Slide 1 Writing a Policy Briefing. Slide 2 Overview of session What is a policy briefing Some tips for writing policy briefings Exercise.

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Presentation on theme: "Slide 1 Writing a Policy Briefing. Slide 2 Overview of session What is a policy briefing Some tips for writing policy briefings Exercise."— Presentation transcript:

1 Slide 1 Writing a Policy Briefing

2 Slide 2 Overview of session What is a policy briefing Some tips for writing policy briefings Exercise

3 Slide 3 Policy briefings In small groups, take 2-3 minutes and discuss what makes a good policy briefing. –What are the most important things to remember when writing such a document? –What irritates you when reading a bad briefing? What are the traits of bad policy writing?

4 Slide 4 What makes a good policy briefing? –Policy relevant –Concise –Comprehensive –Clear –Accurate –Objective –Impartial

5 Slide 5 Accuracy Use information from reputable sources. If not available in print, consider making direct contact. Where did your source get its information? Make sure your language is specific, make use of comparisons –a large amount of radioactivity was released –The amount of radioactivity released was comparable to that released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb

6 Slide 6 Accuracy Make sure you give enough information for the reader to judge the significance of what you are saying - e.g. survey sizes –80% of the survey respondents said that they were happy with POSTs work When quoting figures or statistics, explain what assumptions have been made –6 million people would die if a plane crashed at the Sellafield nuclear plant

7 Slide 7 Presenting scientific information MPs expect simple answers but this is not always possible. It is important to get across whether or not there is consensus, and if not, where does the balance lie? –the earth is round –global warming results from human activity –polio vaccination causes infertility

8 Slide 8 Handling uncertainty Attribute any statements that could be questioned –Greenpeace claim that the Sellafield nuclear plant could not withstand an aircraft impact Include ranges and if relevant, the reason for the uncertainty –According to the International Panel for Climate Change sea level could rise from 20 cm to over 1 metre by the end of the century … modelling cloud cover is a major source of uncertainty Do not be afraid to omit direct conclusions if you feel that none can be drawn. What are the limitations of science? –E.g. there is insufficient scientific evidence to show conclusively whether mobile phones adversely affect human health

9 Slide 9 Making recommendations? Many organisations do not make recommendations in their policy briefings e.g. UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) In such cases it is important to explain what others recommend, and why – but present both sides of any argument.

10 Slide 10 Making recommendations? Other policy briefings do set out to make recommendations. These should be clearly explained, indicating uncertainties: –We recommend that a precautionary approach to the use of mobile phone technologies be adopted until much more detailed and scientifically robust information on any health effects becomes available Stewart report on mobile phones, 2004 Distinguish between political decisions and scientific ones!

11 Slide 11 References Make your work is self contained. Its not an academic paper so no need for 100 references! But keep a record for yourself of ALL sources

12 Slide 12 Technical language Avoid using jargon and acronyms Make sure essential acronyms and jargon are explained Explanations should be easy to find – e.g. in an explanatory box Define units of measurement and where necessary place them in context Be consistent with units and terminology

13 Slide 13 A house style? Branding/logo Number of pages Formatting Endnotes/footnotes Common style for the organisation gives a more professional appearance

14 Slide 14 Policy brief exercise In groups of approximately 5, look at the example policy briefings What is good about each one? What is not so good?

15 Slide 15 Steps for writing a policy briefing 1.Research 2.Structuring and planning 3.Further reading/research 4.Writing 5.Reviewing 6.Re-writing

16 Slide 16 Policy briefing exercise In this exercise, you will be writing a policy briefing on Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Adaptation- how we will change to deal with effects of climate change This is different from mitigation which means how we will change to reduce the causes of climate change

17 Slide 17 Research: background reading What are suitable sources of information for a policy briefing? What sources should be avoided?

18 Slide 18 Exercise: Getting an overview International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report versus wikipedia What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

19 Slide 19 Exercise: Background reading Work in groups of 5 or more Each group will be given 5 information sources on different aspects of climate change adaptation Each person take one source and read it carefully, taking notes After 20 minutes, present a summary back to the group of what you found in your source

20 Slide 20 Research (cont.): Consulting experts and stakeholders Use interviews to get: Specialist and local information Different perceptions and opinions

21 Slide 21 Consulting exercise In your groups, brainstorm a list of stakeholders who you could contact to interview about Climate Change Adaptation For each one, note down 2-3 questions you would ask

22 Slide 22 Structuring and planning Malaria Bednets Plan Introduction Include something to grab attention (e.g. current mortality from malaria? Or cost of malaria treatment?) Malaria Brief information on what Malaria is, what causes it, mortality and morbidity statistics etc. Bednets Info on types of bednets, efficacy, cost etc Distribution Discussions of different methods of bednet distribution (e.g. commercial, subsidised, free etc.) Policy Outline current policies on Malaria prevention and discuss policy options Conclusion Malaria Bednets Plan Introduction Include something to grab attention (e.g. current mortality from malaria? Or cost of malaria treatment?) Malaria Brief information on what Malaria is, what causes it, mortality and morbidity statistics etc. Bednets Info on types of bednets, efficacy, cost etc Distribution Discussions of different methods of bednet distribution (e.g. commercial, subsidised, free etc.) Policy Outline current policies on Malaria prevention and discuss policy options Conclusion Start by making a note of the main sections you want to include Then add notes detailing what will be included in each section

23 Slide 23 Structuring and planning exercise In your groups come up with an outline plan for the policy briefing on Climate Change Adaptation in Africa Once you have completed it, write it out on a piece of flipchart paper and hang it on the wall

24 Slide 24 Further reading/research At this stage you may realise that you need more information In your groups take 5 minutes to discuss what further information you would like before writing the briefing This could include people to interview or additional reading

25 Slide 25 Writing- some tips The briefing is a narrative- each point should flow from the previous point. Use headings and subheadings Keep telling the reader whats coming One point per sentence Use lists and bullet points Use figures and diagrams where relevant - clearly labelled and not too complex

26 Slide 26 Writing (cont.): capturing readers attention Include something attention grabbing on first page: money/legislation/constitue ncy Dont just focus on science - consider wider implications Separate scientific background from policy analysis? Use plenty of examples and case studies

27 Slide 27 Writing (cont.): summary End with a summary. Consider putting this in bullet form to make it easier to read. Consider writing the summary before the main text! This will help you ensure that the briefing gets the key points across

28 Slide 28 Writing exercise In your groups, choose one section each and spend 10 minutes writing a first draft of it (Dont worry if not all sections are covered)

29 Slide 29 Reviewing your work –Get colleagues to look at your work –If time permits, send a draft, or section of the draft, to all the people you have consulted

30 Slide 30 Reviewing exercise Swap the section you have written with a colleague Read your colleagues work and then give them feedback

31 Slide 31 Rewriting Be grateful for feedback- try not to get defensive! Simplify language and structure if people have found it confusing Correct any factual errors Its ok to ignore some feedback comments in order to preserve impartiality

32 Slide 32 Dissemination So you have gone through all the steps and produced a policy briefing… …now how do you get people to read it? In your groups discuss different ways that you could disseminate your work

33 Slide 33 Reflection What have you learnt? What will you do differently?

34 Slide 34 This presentation is based on a presentation by Dr Chandrika Nath, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology The presentation is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to modify and use this presentation for non-commercial purposes providing you retain the attribution of all images and credit INASP. For further information please contact


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