PhDs stepping up to policy brief call
During this year’s Bergen Summer Research School, 17 SDG-oriented policy briefs were produced by more than 100 enthusiastic participants as part of a joint call by PhD for Innovation and SDG Bergen Science Advice.
“We were delighted to see the enthusiastic response to our call for policy briefs and to have no less than 17 submitted to an informal policy brief ‘competition’,” says Professor Edvard Hviding, who is the scientific director for SDG Bergen Science Advice (SDG BSA), about the policy briefs produced during the 2021 Bergen Summer Research School, with the overarching theme Science and Society towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mini UN in Bergen
He is referring to a collaboration between SDG BSA and PhD for Innovation, both units at the University of Bergen, to invite BSRS participants to create policy briefs engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“In 2019, I was the scientific director for BSRS, and this year’s policy brief call indirectly builds on the science diplomacy concept from that year, where we created a sort of mini UN in Bergen and the participants were tasked with creating short policy statements on the SDGs,” says Hviding, “both these summer school tasks underlining the importance of scientists engaging with policy-makers and society at large.”
The 2019 edition also had guests from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international organisations, not the least including input directly from the UN.
Novel ways of innovation
Just like SDG BSA is a novel way of conducting science diplomacy towards the SDGs, the PhD for Innovation project is a novel way of innovating in PhD education and research, consisting of an interdisciplinary team: Professor Birgit Kopainsky (social sciences), Senior Researcher Ingunn Johanne Ness (psychology/SLATE) and Project Manager Hiwa Målen (social sciences).
“The theme of BSRS 2021 was ‘Science and Society towards the SDGs’ and thus, the ideal client was SDG BSA with its explicit work on bringing science to policy,” say the trio on the background for approaching SDG BSA.
“The specific deliverable varies from course to course and from client to client. Sometimes, the deliverable is a project proposal. For BSRS 2021 and with SDG BSA as a client, a policy brief seemed ideal to combine the interests of SDG BSA and the purpose of PhD for Innovation.”
Summer school policy brief
Together, SDG BSA and PhD for Innovation set up the task for more than 100 PhD candidates and early caree researchers to gather in groups and produce a BSRS Policy Brief, modelled on the recently launched SDG Bergen Policy Brief template.
The result? 17 smoking fresh BSRS Policy Briefs. All produced during two hectic weeks in a course facilitated by PhD for Innovation.
“We collect data during a course to evaluate both the process as well as the change in innovation and systems thinking competencies This is important for our own research but also to continuously improve course outcomes,” say the three PhD facilitators.
Different clients, different outcomes
Over time, they want to be able to evaluate whether different clients with different challenges, e.g., UN organisations or private sector companies, lead to different course outcomes and what the implications are for further developments of the course.
“PhD for Innovation is a fairly new course and in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we didn’t think it would be possible to run it online. However, the BSRS experience shows that it can be done,” say the three.
Now, they have two data points: a physical course with a challenge provided by UNEP to formulate a project proposal and an online course with a challenge provided by SDG BSA to develop a policy brief.
From summer school to the UN
Now, SDG BSA and PhD for Innovation face the arduous task of selecting up to three of these 17 inspiring policy briefs to see if they meet the standards to become part of the SDG Bergen Policy Brief series. The facilitators are excited about the outcome producing in an amazingly short space of time.
“The skills developed in the course not only increase research impact but also the employability of our PhD candidates,” say the trio, “PhD for Innovation is a course that goes beyond already existing course at the University of Bergen and in Norway at large. Our ambition is for it to become a template for fostering the magic that arises when smart brains from different disciplines and backgrounds come together to solve a problem in a joint effort.”
With the PhD for Innovation and SDG Bergen Science Advice collaboration being such a success at this year’s summer school, all parties agree this must become a regular feature.
“With this year’s success, it is obvious this must become an annual event in some shape or another,” says Edvard Hviding, “and we look forward to exploring further options with the trio behind PhD for Innovation to take this all the way to the United Nations proper.”