Do scientists have a role in affecting the course of governments? Are they prepared to voice opinions in controversial areas? Even though the experiments may not be complete?
 
How should they go about helping set government policy?
 
The session examines five strategies for scientists, against a case study example:
 
1. The media
 
Everyone reads or watches the media. Politicians make decisions on what they see on television news, and ask questions in the House on what they read in the paper. Use the media as one arm of your strategy, to open doors, help forge alliances, get your issue talked about. Employing media to advantage requires imagination, lateral thinking and deft footwork. Use experts to advise you. How do you write and distribute a media release? How do you contact journalists? How do you stop them from getting things wrong?
 
2. Personal representation
 
Go and talk to government. Make an appointment to see the relevant minister - or you may have to be satisfied with one of their staff (each Federal minister has half a dozen staff members). Precede the meeting with a letter setting out the agenda, and keep the discussions simple. Follow the meeting with a letter summarising the main points and the agreements and actions reached. Try to be helpfui. Don't overwhelm them with problems without being able to offer a solution. Don't have more than two (or perhaps three) members in your deputation. Don't ask for too much. Rehearse your story (particularly the beginning).
 
Ministers like to help but they are driven by many conflicting pressures. Do some homework so you know a little about them, including where their electorate is and what their interests are. (Minister for S&T Peter McGauran lists his as horse-racing, ballet and international law.) Remember that to be effective, the contact has to be on-going.
 
3. Forum for bureaucrats
 
Bureaucrats are highly influential in the formulation of policy, so make sure they are well-informed. Invite a dozen bureaucrats to a briefing session, a discussion led a spokesperson from your group. Identify the right government departments and the appropriate people within those departments. Working out who the best people are will require some preliminary work. Invite them to visit an experimental site, or to a convenient meeting place for a two-hour discussion. Bureaucrats have to fit into structures and programs, so in framing your opening remarks, think about what is going to be useful to them. Keep it simple, and allow plenty of time for their comments and questions. Offer yourself as a resource of ideas, because successful lobbying depends on maintaining day-to-day contacts.
 
4. Allies and networks
 
Small groups are generally easy to ignore, so find other groups which, agree with you on a particular issue and are prepared to make joint representations. Alliances and networking are one of the keys to successful lobbying, so get organisations like the National Farmers' Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation on side. Make up a joint delegation to discuss the issue with the Minister. These alliances cannot be forged overnight, so start building the links early.
 
5. The grassroots 
 
Maintain regional and grassroots links so that other people can complement your work with local action. Ministers respond to groups they see as having good community support rather than simply a well-organised office in Canberra.
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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Science and technology talking to government

Toss Gascoigne  

Jenni Metcalfe  

Do scientists have a role in affecting the course of governments? Are they prepared to voice opinions in controversial areas? Even though the experiments may not be complete?
 
How should they go about helping set government policy?
 
The session examines five strategies for scientists, against a case study example:
 
1. The media
 
Everyone reads or watches the media. Politicians make decisions on what they see on television news, and ask questions in the House on what they read in the paper. Use the media as one arm of your strategy, to open doors, help forge alliances, get your issue talked about. Employing media to advantage requires imagination, lateral thinking and deft footwork. Use experts to advise you. How do you write and distribute a media release? How do you contact journalists? How do you stop them from getting things wrong?
 
2. Personal representation
 
Go and talk to government. Make an appointment to see the relevant minister - or you may have to be satisfied with one of their staff (each Federal minister has half a dozen staff members). Precede the meeting with a letter setting out the agenda, and keep the discussions simple. Follow the meeting with a letter summarising the main points and the agreements and actions reached. Try to be helpfui. Don't overwhelm them with problems without being able to offer a solution. Don't have more than two (or perhaps three) members in your deputation. Don't ask for too much. Rehearse your story (particularly the beginning).
 
Ministers like to help but they are driven by many conflicting pressures. Do some homework so you know a little about them, including where their electorate is and what their interests are. (Minister for S&T Peter McGauran lists his as horse-racing, ballet and international law.) Remember that to be effective, the contact has to be on-going.
 
3. Forum for bureaucrats
 
Bureaucrats are highly influential in the formulation of policy, so make sure they are well-informed. Invite a dozen bureaucrats to a briefing session, a discussion led a spokesperson from your group. Identify the right government departments and the appropriate people within those departments. Working out who the best people are will require some preliminary work. Invite them to visit an experimental site, or to a convenient meeting place for a two-hour discussion. Bureaucrats have to fit into structures and programs, so in framing your opening remarks, think about what is going to be useful to them. Keep it simple, and allow plenty of time for their comments and questions. Offer yourself as a resource of ideas, because successful lobbying depends on maintaining day-to-day contacts.
 
4. Allies and networks
 
Small groups are generally easy to ignore, so find other groups which, agree with you on a particular issue and are prepared to make joint representations. Alliances and networking are one of the keys to successful lobbying, so get organisations like the National Farmers' Federation and the Australian Conservation Foundation on side. Make up a joint delegation to discuss the issue with the Minister. These alliances cannot be forged overnight, so start building the links early.
 
5. The grassroots 
 
Maintain regional and grassroots links so that other people can complement your work with local action. Ministers respond to groups they see as having good community support rather than simply a well-organised office in Canberra.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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