Working with policymakers

The University actively supports local, national and overseas policymakers to make better-informed policy decisions, as well as bring innovation into decision-making.


Influencing Public Policy and Decision Making

Recent research activity to support evidence-based policymaking has been made possible through various Research England funded projects such as Quality-Related (QR) funding, Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF), Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA). Projects have established relationships with key stakeholders in local government and national governing bodies, opening up communication channels to ensure policies have a greater impact on regional and national challenges.  

The scope of recent projects ranged from arts and culture to carbon technology and included the investigation of key issues, establishment of communication channels, and auditing of working practises and public opinion. For example:

  • Briefing notes for Parliament on ageism and the Equality Act in the arts industry
  • Methodology for mapping mental health support in South Yorkshire schools
  • Collaboration with Sheffield Region stakeholders to produce a strategy for net-zero regional growth
  • Opening channels of communication between under-represented communities and policymakers

Read more about the impact of a selection of funded projects which influenced policy and decision making. 

Tackling ageism in the arts

'Creative Lives', led by Dr Amanda Crawley Jackson in the School of Languages and Cultures, aimed to highlight issues of ageism in the arts sector, connecting a network of older artists, arts organisations and academics from various disciplines ((including Dr Joe Atkinson from the School of Law and Dr Carmen Levick from the School of English) to consider the influence of the Equality Act in the sector. The project partnered with The Hepworth Wakefield to deliver a two-day virtual symposium for artists and academics, providing participants with legal understanding and sparking discussion around the topic of ageism. The symposium uncovered the depth of ageism within the arts sector. Significantly, society views art as a recreational activity for older generations, hindering older people's opportunity for professional practise, impacting aspirations, independence and financial stability. 

"I have learned that ageism is affecting many artists' lives in a negative way but I also think and believe that we must not allow ourselves to be put in some kind of box. We must keep doing what we enjoy until we can no longer physically or mentally do it anymore." - 'Creative Lives' symposium participant

Although a planned parliamentary launch was delayed due to Covid-19, the project produced a briefing note on ageism and the Equality Act in the arts sector which will form the basis for future work with central and local government. Dr Carmen Levick will lead on a second tranche of activity in 2021 Future work includes a second symposium to establish further connections between participants and policymakers, furthering discussions with policy stakeholders and delivering the final report to the Houses of Parliament.

A copy of the briefing note, written by Dr Alex Mason can be found here.

Exploring the take-up of low carbon technologies

Professor Mohamed Pourkashanian engaged with a number of public body sectors across the Sheffield region to profile the willingness to take up low carbon energy initiatives as part of the project 'Moving Towards Net Zero: Translational Energy Research and Capacity Building in the Sheffield Region for Evidence-Based Policy Making'. By profiling regional public sector bodies' needs, strengths and capabilities including the facilities at the AMRC, NAMRC, Translational Energy Research Centre (TERC) and the Energy Institute, the project aimed to embed evidence-based policymaking activity and initiatives regarding low carbon technologies. The research produced a strategy for a regional growth centre focusing on achieving net-zero status. Future work will explore the production of a roadmap for sustainable energy infrastructure in a post­-Covid context.

Tracking the return of wild salmon

'River reconnections: The search for salmon' led by Dr Deborah Dawson produced significant findings regarding tracking the return of wild salmon to British rivers and the interpretations of eDNA results in future studies. By partnering with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency, Dr Dawson's team was able to analyse water samples from Yorkshire rivers and successfully use qPCR based methods to detect salmon DNA in rivers and investigate barriers to passage. Analyses of samples taken from various distances of wastewater treatment works highlighted the difficulties in detecting salmon DNA and tracking migration routes in rivers containing sewage, leading to further conversations with partners regarding future studies of wild salmon in the British Isles lakes. The study was highlighted in a series of public engagement materials featured in Festival of the Mind 2020, including a podcast, a guided walk and the unveiling of a metalwork sculpture.

Contact Chris Baker ( in Partnerships and Regional Engagement for more information about funding for working with policymakers.