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Why researchers have a duty to try and influence policy

Simon Chapman writes in The Conversation (24.2.17) about the difficult-to-overcome gap between researchers' work and their influence upon policy making.

'Very early in my career, I was invited to afternoon tea with the head of the Commonwealth Institute of Health at Sydney University, where I worked. The best bone china was produced and pleasantries exchanged. The agenda soon became clear.

'He laboured into a parable about the difference between young and old bulls when locked in a small yard. He told me young bulls run hard at the gate, exhausting and sometimes harming themselves.

'But old bulls are generally patient and placid. They always know the farmer will open the gate and they’ll walk out and soon get among the pasture and the cows. Young bulls should learn from old bulls, he told me.

'... Then, and even today, there still remain large remnants of the attitude in universities that scientists and researchers should avoid talking to the media. News media are frequently disdained by academics as trivialising and superficial, something from which those with ambitions of gravitas should keep well away.'

 

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