Study identifies key challenges when communicating potential policies



A team of Cambridge researchers sets out to define a new science for policy communications, with ambitions of finding the “Goldilocks zone” between too much and not enough information when informing both legislators and the public on complex issues.

Too much complexity risks a lack of understanding or simply being ignored. However, a brief and easy-to-digest communication may well lack the depth and detail necessary for making an informed decision.
- Cameron Brick

Researchers have trawled through what little evidence currently exists on effectively communicating policy options, and point out four communication challenges that are problematic and often overlooked – yet should be required information for those making decisions that affect the lives of millions.

These include the need to highlight both the “winners and losers” of any policy decision, and to find ways of representing trade-offs between, say, financial and ecological and or health outcomes. The findings are published in the Springer Nature journal Palgrave Communications.

Recent decades have seen significant progress in producing information summaries that allow people to better understand how personal health choices affect their lives, say researchers.

However, they argue that similarly clear and concise materials are rarely available for legislators – and all of us citizens – on the potential outcomes of policies with stakes far beyond the individual.

Aiming to create a new science for communicating policy options, a team based at Cambridge’s Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication point out the difficulty of finding the optimal balance between “comprehensibility and coverage” of policy options when informing decision-makers.

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Image: Palace of Westminster

Credit: Michael D Beckwith

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

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