Knowledge exchange: Turning science into policy

Welcome to Plankton and Policy’s blog – although I’ve written guest posts elsewhere, this is the first post I’ve ever written for my own blog. It’s hard to know where to start, but I think a good place would be with the inspiration behind Plankton and Policy – my NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship “Interpreting and targeting NERC-funded research outputs to inform and influence marine policy”.

The aim of my fellowship is to maximize policy impact of NERC-supported science, expertise and data, particularly that from the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR), by directly informing UK, EU, and international policy- and decision-making. I love working at SAHFOS and the Continuous Plankton Recorder is an amazing and unique dataset (~1 million samples analysed! Over 500 plankton taxa identified! An 83 year ecological time-series!) which generates progressive multi-scale science. What really excites me is seeing  science applied as evidence to the decision making process, and during the past few years my role at SAHFOS has steadily gravitated towards this activity. However I’ve constantly faced the same challenge many scientists face when it comes to generating policy impact – it’s difficult to get consistent funding for this work. When I wrote my NERC KE Fellowship application in spring of 2013 I felt like I was writing a job description for my dream job. If I got the fellowship I’d actually be funded to spend a significant chunk of my working life getting paid to do what I really wanted to do – facilitate the provision of scientific evidence directly into the policy process. When I found out in July 2013 that I was successful in my fellowship application I could not believe it. Me, a NERC Fellow! I’d finally have the time to consistently focus on the science-policy interface instead of fitting policy work in around funded projects.

My fellowship started on 1 September 2013, which, somehow, is now ten months ago. During those ten months I’ve presented at UK, EU and international policy meetings; chaired the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive for pelagic habitats at the UK and OSPAR levels; presented my policy science at UK and international conferences; met other UK and international policy ecologists at NERC and non-NERC networking events; received mentoring through the NERC network; and given over 15 invited talks. My fellowship has allowed me to focus on working with UK and European policy makers in a targeted and proactive manner and has helped raised the profile of the CPR as well as SAHFOS’s policy expertise in the UK and European policy arenas. It really is everything I wanted it to be.

It was actually my NERC mentor who suggested I start a blog and website in order to tell people about the science-policy work I’m doing through my fellowship and engage with others working on or interested in the same area. I’ve been an avid tweeter for years now but a blog has always seemed intimidating; but, here I am and here is Plankton and Policy. Like Twitter, one aspect of a blog that appeals to me is the opportunity to put some humanity into the science-policy interface and show readers (if there are any readers!) that applying science to policy is a process which is not straightforward and which is undertaken by real people, like myself, who are trying to work together to figure out the best way to deliver a sustainable marine environment.

Welcome to Plankton and Policy!

Abigail, Plankton and Policy

About Abigail McQuatters-Gollop

Marine biologist, guitarist, cat lover, red wine drinker. I like plankton.
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