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Dr Kit Yates and policy engagement

From mathematical modelling about Covid-19, to sharing his research via media and social media, learn about Kit's experiences of engaging policymakers.

Kit Yates next to a web of graphics demonstrating his research and engagement activities
Dr Kit Yates has been actively involved in policy engagement

Kit Yates is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences with extensive experiences of engaging policymakers in his research. Over recent years he has engaged policymakers in his research through All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), Select Committees and policy masterclasses.

Tell us about your research and expertise

"I’m a Mathematical Biologist studying biological systems – ranging from the movement of swarms of locusts to the movement of cells in the developing embryo – and trying to model them using equations and computer code. I work on a number of different application areas, including animal pigment pattern formation and - most pertinent for policymaking - disease spread."

For further information see Kit's website.

How is your work relevant to policymakers?

"The part of my research that has been most relevant to policymakers is my work on infectious disease modelling, which was particularly apposite during the acute stage of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve published papers on vaccine delivery, mitigation strategies, Covid-19 in children/schools, the modelling process, the difficulties with analysing data in real time, critical weaknesses in shielding strategies, and a number of specifically policy focused papers. All of these works were particularly relevant to policymakers during the pandemic."

How have you engaged policy professionals through your research?

"I’ve engaged policymakers directly at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Covid and at the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, at which I gave testimony on mathematical modelling and algorithms.

"My work as a member of Independent SAGE also brought me both face-to-face with politicians who were invited to our regular briefings to ask questions, as well as indirect contact through spreading my research to a wider audience including advocacy groups and the broader public.

"I’ve also engaged with policymakers more indirectly through publicising my work on social and traditional media. This has led to my work being cited in Australian, Belgian, Canadian, Dutch, EU, French, Swiss, Malaysian, and UK policy documents, as well as by the World Bank, the World Health Organisation, the NHS and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)."

Also see: Select Committees and APPGs

How have you worked with the IPR on policy engagement?

"I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to do a couple of policy events by colleagues from the IPR. I presented to and took part in a discussion session with senior civil servants at a Policy Masterclass called 'Good evidence for Good policy'.

"I also presented and took questions at a workshop for civil servants in the former department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) called 'Putting science evidence into practice in UK policymaking”."

Also see: Latest research to policy engagement opportunities

What methods do you think have been most successful?

"Many of the instances in which my work has been cited in policy documents have not come about through direct contact with policymakers, but rather through ensuring the work is relevant and has good exposure through traditional and social media . For example, by creating threads on X (formerly Twitter) about my work, which have been widely circulated, I have been able to ensure good visibility for my research. Similarly, by writing about my research in media outlets, I have given it an improved chance of being seen by policymakers."

Also see: Communicating research for policy audiences

What has happened as a result?

"I have received lots of positive feedback from my various policy engagements, including both of the events I undertook with the IPR, indicating that there was interest from civil servants and other policy actors in my work. My work has been now been cited across numerous policy documents which is significant. Obviously the longer-term impacts of that are harder to track."

What did you learn about the process of policy engagement?

"I’ve been surprised and pleased about the uptake of my research from areas I wouldn’t have expected — especially the global reach and impact my research has had on policymaking. When I started each piece of research, influencing policymakers was not top of my agenda, so it’s an added bonus that some of my research has been so widely influential.

"For example, our letter to The Lancet received a great deal of media and social media attention and has the 112th highest attention score of the 25 million research outputs ranked by Altmetric. It has since also been cited in policy documents from the World Health Organisation, the Eurohealth think tank, the Ministry of Health from New South Wales, the NHS and Belgian Federal Public Services.

Also see: Stakeholder mapping; Think tanks, advocacy groups, business and charities

What advice would you give to others?

  1. The work you are doing has to be relevant to policy, so engaging with policymakers isn’t for everyone. Putting your work in front of a broad audience gives you a good chance of getting it seen.
  2. Not all routes to policymakers are direct. So do think hard about how you can best publicise your work on social and traditional media.
  3. Above all, if you think you have work that could influence policy, speak to people in the IPR to see how they can help you.
‘Many of the instances in which my work has been cited in policy documents have not come about through direct contact...but rather through ensuring the work is relevant and has good exposure through traditional and social media.’
Dr Kit Yates Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematical Sciences

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Get in touch with the IPR if you would like help and support with policy engagement.