FAQs for historians

If you are a historian interested in joining the History & Policy network, the following FAQs may be helpful:

  1. Why should historians engage with policymakers and media?
  2. Who do you mean by policymakers?
  3. Why would policymakers be interested in what historians have to say?
  4. Do I have to be a modern historian to join the network?
  5. Can I pass this request on to colleagues and postgraduate students?
  6. Do I have to pay to join?
  7. How will my data be stored and used?
  8. I am really busy, how much time will be involved?
  9. Will I be paid for my time?
  10. What if I don't want journalists and policymakers to contact me direct?
  11. I have no experience of dealing with policymakers or the media, can I still join the database?
  12. Can you provide media training?
  13. If I join the network, do I have to write a History & Policy paper for the website?
  14. I have already written a History & Policy paper, have I automatically joined the network?
  15. Can you guarantee media coverage of my work?
  16. Do I have to rewrite my work into media-speak?
  17. Does your work replace or compete with my University's press office?
  18. I don't know much about the current politics of my research area, can you help?
  19. That's cleared up my queries, how do I join the History & Policy network?

1. Why should historians engage with policymakers and media?

The founders of History & Policy perceived that modern policymaking was suffering from a lack of historical perspective and a failure to involve professional historians. They recognised that part of the responsibility lay with historians, who have not traditionally made themselves or their work accessible to non-academic audiences.

The History & Policy network was set up to provide a single point of contact for anyone in a policy or media environment seeking to contact a historian. It is modelled on the Science Media Centre's database of scientists, which has succeeded in improving the communication of science through the media.

2. Who do you mean by policymakers?

Anyone involved in discussing and deciding public policy in:

  • Central government
  • UK and devolved parliaments
  • Local and regional government
  • Government agencies
  • Think-tanks
  • Lobby groups
  • Non-governmental organisations
  • Industry
  • News and specialist media

3. Why would policymakers be interested in what historians have to say?

The History & Policy papers provide many examples of policy areas that could benefit from a historical perspective.

Often, history is incorrectly assumed to be less relevant to current policy than the social and natural sciences. Yet given the opportunity, historians can shed light on the causes of current problems and even suggest innovative solutions.

4. Do I have to be a modern historian to join the network?

No. If your work could make a useful contribution to a current policy issue, that's all we ask. We aim to reveal the longer-term roots of problems and previous attempts to solve them, as well as historical parallels to current situations. Although 19th and 20th century history tends to be more obviously relevant, historians of earlier periods are also encouraged to get involved.

5. Can I pass this request on to colleagues and postgraduate students?

We are always looking for more historians to get involved, so please spread the word around your history centre or department. For quality control purposes, we will only facilitate briefings or publish material based on published or examined research, but we are happy to help postgraduate students gain relevant experience.

6. Do I have to pay to join?

No, this is currently a free service as part of the History & Policy pilot project. As the service develops in future, it may become necessary to charge, but that is not on the horizon yet.

7. How will my data be stored and used?

Your data will be held at the History & Policy office in the Centre for Contemporary British History in a password protected folder. It will not be published and will not be shared with any third party (including policymakers or journalists) without your permission. If you ask to be removed from the database, we will delete all your details as soon as possible.

8. I am really busy, how much time will be involved?

Involvement in the History & Policy network is unlikely to involve more than occasional enquiries, but the time commitment will vary depending on the relevance of your expertise to the current policy climate. As the network develops, we hope to make sure the same people are not called upon all the time. But if historians are to make an impact on the policy world, they must be accessible to journalists and policymakers. This might mean rearranging your diary to fit in the occasional event or interview.

History & Policy will not pay you for your time, but we can provide advice on whether it is appropriate to ask for payment from the organisation you are working with. Here are some tips:

  • Some broadcast media will pay interviewees, though this is generally a nominal amount
  • For documentaries involving a significant time commitment you should discuss payment before agreeing to get involved
  • Most media will pay reasonable travel expenses
  • You should be paid for any articles you write for newspapers or magazines - £200-300 is standard, though this varies between publications
  • Public sector organisations will not usually pay for your time, though this will vary from case to case
  • If you are asked to undertake new research or speak at an event that will involve travel and preparation time, this should be done on a paid, contractual basis
  • Payment is more likely for commissioned work for the private sector

10. What if I don't want journalists and policymakers to contact me direct?

We will be the first point of contact for all enquiries and we discuss any relevant requests with you before giving out your contact details. If you undertake media interviews, you may find that journalists keep your details on file and contact you again directly, but you are under no obligation to accept any future requests.

11. I have no experience of dealing with policymakers or the media, can I still join the database?

Yes, but we will not recommend historians for challenging interviews or briefings without any experience. You should think carefully about how your work is relevant to current issues and ensure you can present it simply and clearly to a non-academic audience.

This is a new venture for the historical profession in the U.K. We recognise that many historians are not experienced at communicating their work to media and policy audiences, and we will provide advice and assistance.

12. Can you provide media training?

History & Policy runs media training courses and introductions to the media for historians. For more information about these contact Fiona Holland (fiona.holland@kcl.ac.uk). You should also contact your university or research council press office to see whether they can provide media training for you.

13. If I join the network, do I have to write a History & Policy paper for the website?

No, but we strongly encourage you to do so. Writing a History & Policy paper is a good way to distil your work into a short, accessible format that can be communicated to non-academic audiences. We are always looking for new authors and if you have an idea for a paper, we would be delighted to hear from you. See Submit a paper.

14. I have already written a History & Policy paper, have I automatically joined the network?

No, you will only be part of the network if you ask to join. If you want to contribute a paper without joining the database, you can do, but we do ask contributors to join the network before we publicise their work.

15. Can you guarantee media coverage of my work?

We regularly place articles written by historians with national newspapers, arrange interviews with historians on national and regional radio and attract coverage of new History & Policy papers in national, regional, online and specialist media, see our news pages for examples. Media coverage can never be guaranteed, but the more willing you are to engage and the more user-friendly your research, the more likely it is that journalists will be receptive.

16. Do I have to rewrite my work into media-speak?

Not necessarily, but if you want to make an impact on non-academic audiences, you will need to make your work relevant and accessible. Policymakers and media will expect any briefing, whether written or verbal, to be short, concise and relevant. They will not read long academic papers or footnotes or broadcast rambling interviews.

17. Does your work replace or compete with my University's press office?

Not at all. We complement the work of university press offices by generating more publicity for historians, their research and their institutions, and collaborate with university press officers wherever possible. You should always inform your press office if you accept a request for a media interview.

18. I don't know much about the current politics of my research area, can you help?

Yes. We aim to keep historians up-to-date with occasional email alerts about policy developments and media coverage relevant to their research, such as government announcements, select committee inquiries and think-tank or lobby-group publications. We hope to develop a regular policy newsletter for historians from 2008.

19. That's cleared up my queries, how do I join the History & Policy network?

Please contact Fiona Holland by phone on +44 (0)20 7848 7047 to discuss your expertise and experience. This only takes a few minutes. If you are accepted to join the network of historians, you will need to provide full contact details, including a home, work and mobile phone number and email address.

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