New platform Overton Engage will help universities get active about policy engagement

Overton has launched a new platform called Overton Engage to transform how universities and governments connect

Overton Engage provides an easy way for universities to discover policy engagement opportunities from countries across the world and to affect real change.

“Scholarly expertise plays a crucial role in policymaking. Governments need accurate and up-to-date information to make informed decisions,” says Overton founder and Director Euan Adie.

Society today faces increasingly complex and pressing challenges. When legislating on a new topic, policymakers will often seek expert advice to support their decision making, in the form of things like public consultations, calls for evidence and expert panels.

Overton Engage collects all of these requests for evidence into one place, and helps universities respond effectively. It’s designed to help experts get started with policy engagement, so they can more effectively influence decision makers.

The platform is made to complement different levels of policy engagement experience, and can be used by different faculty across the university – from policy teams to research managers to academics themselves.

Many researchers are keen to affect real world change and do good with their work. But often they don’t know where to start – it’s not always clear how to connect with policymakers

Euan Adie

There are currently many barriers to research/policy engagement.

  • Policy moves at a different pace to research. Calls for expertise often have very short lead times, and rely on researchers being incredibly responsive. Academics are very busy, so struggle to find time to look for and respond to opportunities.

  • Many researchers find it difficult to communicate their findings in a format that’s accessible or usable in a policy context – ‘research translation’ is a specific skill that not all scholars have.

  • Universities are stretched and often don’t have dedicated engagement teams to deal with all of these requests. Even when these teams exist, there’s a lot of manual work involved in finding these calls, so engagement opportunities can easily be missed.

  • Finally, policymakers tend to rely on a pool of experts that isn’t as diverse as it could be – such as physical location, career stage and gender. This limits the range of views and insights that feed into decision making and can mean that the best evidence isn’t being utilised.

We wanted to lower the barriers to participation. Not only are we making these engagement opportunities visible and accessible, but we’re trying to ensure that each opportunity gets a relevant and appropriate response

euan adie

Key features of Overton Engage

  • An intuitive searchable database: find opportunities to engage with policymakers by searching for keywords or pasting in a scholarly blurb, or browse by country or engagement type. We have collected 3000+ opportunities so far and are adding more all the time!

  • Innovative matching technology: identify which researchers might be suited to policy engagement opportunities. Using AI and a large language model, Engage analyses a researcher’s outputs and identifies if their expertise is relevant to the opportunity to support policy teams or research admins to find appropriate scholars from their institution.

  • Learning resources: every subscription to Overton Engage comes with a suite of learning materials to support the development of skills and knowledge in policy engagement. The training helps researchers translate their expertise into a more digestible, ‘policy friendly’ format as well as providing guidance on diffusion strategies.

  • Time saving features: each listing contains key information about the policy engagement opportunity, including deadlines and the contact information of the requestor. Users can even set up alerts to ensure they don’t miss a new chance to influence public policy. Opportunities can be saved and exported to share with others.

With this new tool, we’re making it easier for experts to connect with decision makers. We hope this goes some way to democratising access and lowering the barriers to policy engagement. This helps to ensure that a more diverse range of voices are represented and so broaden policymakers’ understanding of a given issue

Overton Engage complements the flagship database Overton Index, which allows users to track policy citations and evaluate the reach of research, by providing a direct means of influencing policy. Users are able to create and evidence policy impact using one comprehensive toolkit.

Overton Engage is now available to use! Individual researchers can access a basic version of the platform for free. This iteration shows all of the policy engagement listings but comes without premium features such as the matching tool and the training materials. Institutional users wanting the additional strategic features can get an extended free trial during the launch phase from June until September.

Researchers are encouraged to try it out and feed back to optimise the platform and ensure it’s as useful as possible!

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