How can academics get involved with the Assembly’s work?

Academic engagement or knowledge exchange with the Assembly is of benefit both to academic researchers and to the Assembly and there are many different ways to get involved. Here are some top tips on how to engage with us.

Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes

12 March 2020

Darllenwch yr erthygl yma yn Gymraeg | View this post in Welsh

The National Assembly for Wales is the democratically elected body that represents the interests of Wales and its people. It makes laws for Wales, agrees Welsh taxes and holds the Welsh Government to account.

Academic engagement or knowledge exchange with the Assembly is of benefit both to academic researchers and to the Assembly and there are many different ways to get involved.

Here are some top tips on how to engage with us:

Keep up to date with current issues

The Assembly is a very dynamic, fast paced institution where many issues affecting the people of Wales are discussed at any one time. To inform debate and improve the making of policy and new laws, the Assembly needs access to the best possible research and expertise to help inform debate and scrutiny of policy.

This ranges from specific research on the impact of current Welsh Government policies and spending, to knowledge and expertise that can help Assembly Members consider the longer-term challenges and opportunities facing Wales.

By keeping up to date with what is being discussed, you will find out the best time to engage and maximise the impact that your knowledge can have.

There are several different ways to find out what is happening at the Assembly:

Know who to contact

There are a number of routes through which academics can feed their research into the Assembly:

Assembly Members

  • Find out which issues an AM is interested in and involved in by looking at their AM profile. These profiles list which Committees and Cross-Party Groups they are part of, as well as their own personal interests. Many AMs will also have their own personal website which can be a source of information. Check out the area of Wales that an AM represents here.
  • Meet with an AM either at their constituency office or at the Assembly.
  • Attend events organised by an AM.

Assembly Committees

Assembly Committees are groups of AMs from the different political parties represented in the Assembly. Each Committee is set up to look at a broad area of policy (eg: education, health, environment), and it will scrutinise proposed laws (Bills) and carry out inquiries into devolved policy areas. A full list of current Assembly Committees can be seen here.

How to get involved with a Committee:

  • If a Committee is collecting information on a topic it will put out a call for evidence on its webpage. A list of current calls for evidence can be seen here.
  • If your research is relevant to the topic being discussed you may be invited as a witness to give evidence at a Committee meeting.
  • If more detailed, technical expertise is required on an important issue an expert panel may be created.
  • A Committee may invite an expert to act as an adviser for a particular piece of work
  • In addition to formal written or oral evidence, Committees may also gather information through visits to particular places or institutions, or use online voting or survey systems.

Further information on getting involved with Committees can be seen in this guide (PDF,225KB).

Cross-Party Groups

Cross-Party Groups are groups of AMs which come together to focus on a specific topic. AMs can also invite relevant stakeholders and subject experts to join the discussion. Cross-Party Groups are less formal than Committees and are not part of formal Assembly business, but are still a useful way for AMs to discuss topics relevant to the Assembly’s work.

How to engage with Cross-Party Groups

  • Look through the list of registered Cross-Party Groups on the website for relevant groups
  • The purpose, membership and contact details for each Cross-Party Group are given on the website. You can either contact the group directly or speak to a member of the group separately.

Senedd Research

Senedd Research supports AMs in their work by ensuring they have expert, impartial and trusted research, analysis and information, designed to meet their needs. The information generated by Senedd Research is used to help AMs hold the Welsh Government to account and to help represent their constituents. Senedd Research provides a range of services as shown in this infographic.

How to engage with Senedd Research:

  • Become an Academic Fellow at the Assembly. The Academic Fellowship scheme enables academics at a senior (post-PhD) career level to spend time working with Senedd Research on a specific project, where this will have mutual benefit to the academic and to the Assembly. There is normally a call for applicants each calendar year so keep an eye on the Academic Fellowships page for more information on the programme, the work of previous Fellows and key dates.
  • Become a UK Research and Innovation PhD intern. More information on PhD placements is available here.
  • Check through the different research teams in Senedd Research and contact the relevant researcher or Team Leader to make them aware of your research.
  • Keep an eye on Senedd Research’s In Brief blog to see the issues that are topical and get in touch if you have relevant expertise. We may invite you to write a guest blog post for us.

Some general tips

AMs will be dealing with and processing information on multiple different issues at any one time. It is therefore important that your research is as accessible and relevant as possible. There are lots of different tips on how to do this:

  • Be clear when communicating your research. The AM may not be an expert in the field you want to discuss so you should keep your language as jargon-free as possible.
  • If you do link to research papers or other sources make sure that they are open access and readable by non-academics.
  • Be concise when summarising your research. AMs will have a limited amount of time to devote to reading about your research so make sure you can convey your work in a brief and digestible manner.
  • Most of the time AMs will be concerned with policy areas that are devolved to Wales and less so with those that are reserved to UK level. Further information about powers that are devolved and reserved is given here.

Where to go for more information

  • The Senedd Research Academic Engagement webpage gives more information about other ways to engage and any upcoming initiatives.
  • The ‘Research Impact and Legislatures’ briefing note produced jointly by the four UK legislatures describes an overview of research impact in legislatures. It was written to inform the work of the four UK higher education funding bodies in developing assessment criteria for the next Research Excellence Framework Exercise in 2021.
  • There is a similar briefing note on ‘Knowledge Exchange and Legislatures’ which gives an overview of Knowledge Exchange between universities and the four UK legislatures, to inform the development of Knowledge Exchange strategies and activities for universities and academic researchers across the UK.  
  • The Campaign for Social Science guide on Pathways to Impact has some useful specific tips on engaging with the Assembly and the Welsh Government.
  • An independent evaluation of the Assembly’s academic engagement work, alongside those of the other UK legislatures by Dr Danielle Beswick and Dr Marc Geddes (forthcoming).

Article by Emily Tilby and Graham Winter, Senedd Research

Senedd Research acknowledges the parliamentary fellowship provided to Emily Tilby by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which enabled this blog to be completed.

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