What is the role of researcher media advocacy within the Australian road safety policy process?
Keywords: Strategy & Policy
Submission Date: 2008
Road safety policy debates are often highly public and involve an array of stakeholders with competing interpretations of what issues are problematic and require policy attention, what solutions should be considered and what groups should be involved in the policymaking process. Science can have a particularly prominent role within these advocacy battles, leading the policy process to resemble a structured conflict over what constitutes ?relevant evidence? and ?expertise?. This scientific emphasis places substantial importance on the ?expert? views of researchers, which in turn results in their prominence within policy-relevant media discussion. While conventional researcher outputs are subjected to substantial critical analysis by their peers, their media advocacy outputs may be less critically scrutinised. Further, there is also conflict about the perceived role of researchers and whether advocacy should form part of their role. This study aimed to learn from key stakeholders, including researchers, involved in Australian novice driver road safety policy debates how they perceived the role of media advocacy by researchers within the policy process. It emerged that media advocacy by researchers is seen by many road safety stakeholders as being a major policy agenda-setting force. It is also generally perceived by stakeholders as having the potential to help disseminate research widely throughout the community so as to stimulate more evidence-informed policy debates. Finally, stakeholders perceive several structural factors as limiting the level to which researchers are involved in the media domain including their lack of both expertise in advocacy techniques and awareness of existing political constraints facing policymakers. By making perceptions of the role of researcher advocacy more transparent, this study hopes to focus the attention of the Australian road safety community on this important but largely overlooked neglected issue.