In 18 months, Professor Anand Menon and his team have created the go-to place for authoritative and impartial information and analysis on the UK’s relationship with the EU.
- Under Professor Anand Menon's leadership, within two years the ESRC's UK in a Changing Europe initiative was built up from its 2015 inception to being cited by The Guardian and The Economist as a key source for impartial research-based information on UK-EU relations – recognised by policymakers, journalists, businesses, civil society organisations and educational institutions.
- Professor Menon has developed a network of contacts across government and the civil service as well as in the devolved administrations and assemblies, the media, campaigners and other stakeholders which he uses to maximise research impact for the project.
- He organised a range of activities with the research team to engage with a wider audience, including:
- more than 40 'town hall' events held across the country, to provide dialogue and information exchange between voters and UK in a Changing Europe fellows.
- a series of school talks, reaching 1,200 pupils
- Question and Answer events in pubs and a prison
- the deliberate use of videos and infographics to reach more people than with traditional print publications
- Professor Menon has also encouraged researchers to reach out with varied types of engagement, such as:
- briefings to SNP, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs prior to the EU referendum and more recently to David Davies MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU
- facilitating collaborative work such as the Brexit and beyond report which magnified the reach and impact of individual researchers
- advising where to place research to gain maximum publicity.
- In the run-up to the EU referendum, millions of viewers of ITV News at Ten heard Professor Menon and other team members debunk Brexit myths based on their published research. Their work also generated front page stories in the national press.
"Anand has been the discovery of the referendum! He is a supreme communicator, a rarity in academic circles. He gets how important it is to explain complex issues clearly for the audience. Add to that his impartiality and authority and you have a perfect contributor." (Julie Hulme, Head of Newsgathering, ITV News)
About the research
When both Leavers and Remainers turned to Professor Anand Menon for information during last year's EU referendum campaign, it became obvious that the UK in a Changing Europe team were making an impact.
Commissioned before the referendum was announced, Professor Menon's aim was to make the UK in a Changing Europe initiative a vital reference point for those wanting trustworthy information in the run-up to 23 June, and to underline the value of social science research to society at large. "To make that happen we needed a reputation not just for a deep and subtle understanding of all the issues, but for impartiality and our ability to make often very technical information accessible to everyone," he says.
Rarely did the evidence point in one direction, so Professor Menon and his 16-strong team worked to gain the trust of all sides for publishing findings, whatever they implied. "We had to prove we weren't just another lobbying group," he explains. "To achieve that, even small things matter, such as not interjecting words like 'sadly' or 'unfortunately' when talking about the evidence."
Team members point to Professor Menon's enthusiasm, engaging presence and willingness to lead from the front as key factors in inspiring his team to attract widespread interest in their research findings.
Repeated requests for analysis and information from civil servants, politicians and the media prove that his team's work has made a difference, Professor Menon believes - and it's an impact which is set to continue.
"Brexit may be dominating our political life for the next two years, but arguably it's only when we leave the EU that we'll find out what it all means," he points out. "There's ten years of Brexit to go, and our aim is to provide political parties, businesses, the general public and, indeed, people from EU member states with the information they need about Brexit, what it means and how it may play out."