ACCESS - Advancing Capacity for Climate  and Environment Social Science
ACCESS - Advancing Capacity for Climate  and Environment Social Science
Winter School participants

Winter School 2023


This year’s ACCESS Winter School took place at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor from Wednesday 11 to Friday 13 January. One of the key themes of the 3-day school was – How can we improve the impact social science research has on policy and practice?

The event had originally been organised as a Summer School for September 2022 but was postponed as a mark or respect following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

It was great to meet the delegates and get together for three days of interactive sessions, networking, and reflections. Our invited speakers and facilitators – from academia and the public sector – enthusiastically shared their experiences and top tips.

Gary Kass is a Principal Specialist at Natural England and visiting Professor at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Surrey. With 35 years’ practice in the public and private sectors he champions forward-looking, systemic and interdisciplinary approaches to using science and evidence to tackle critical environmental and sustainability challenges

Our Early Career Researcher panel – Christy Hehir, Jasmine Lee, Kavin Narasimhan, Gerardo Torres Contreras – shared their experiences of working in inter- and trans-disciplinary teams, engaging with different publics, and working with public and civil servants.

Early Career Researchers talking at the Winter School

Sarah Golding, ACCESS Knowledge Exchange Fellow (University of Surrey)

“We facilitated a variety of sessions and activities that explored how to communicate the value of delegates’ own work beyond their immediate disciplines and project partners. Saffron O’Neill hosted a thought-provoking session about social media, and together with Hannah Hayes and Sylvia Hayes, debated the pros and cons of engaging with Twitter as an environmental social scientist. Our Early Career Researcher panel – Christy Hehir, Jasmine Lee, Kavin Narasimhan, Gerardo Torres Contreras – shared their experiences of working in inter- and trans-disciplinary teams, engaging with different publics, and working with public and civil servants.

Delegates were encouraged to think about flows of knowledge and how social science evidence can be mobilised and used in different contexts. Peter Lefort spoke about different types of relationships and connections within networks and prompted us to consider how knowledge and other resources move through a network. Unable to join us at the last moment, Anna Lorentzon kindly produced a video for delegates, highlighting some of the ways in which social science evidence is used within government departments and agencies.

We also had sessions focused on broader skills and practices that social scientists might need to develop, beyond their research skills. Gary Kass discussed the capacities and competencies that can support more effective inter- and trans-disciplinary working. Chris Jones shared his experiences of generating real-world change from research projects, and suggested delegates work towards building long-term collaborative relationships with non-academic partners. Generating impact takes time and requires collective effort.

Finally, it was great to showcase – and get feedback from our delegates on – how we might operationalise the ACCESS Guiding Principles of Sustainability, Knowledge co-production, and Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). For this session, I was joined by the rest of the Guiding Principles team: Stewart Barr, Kate Burningham, Steve Guilbert, and Sarah Hartley. We discussed the importance of social scientists incorporating these principles into our research and knowledge exchange activities. Delegates then reflected on how these principles might be relevant in their own work, where potential tensions might lie, and how they might adapt their ways of working – and those of their colleagues – in future activities.”

Group activity at the Winter School
Winter school participants at Cumberland lodge taking part in a session led by Prof Kate Burningham
Warm up workshop with an table top activity at the Winter School
One of the sitting rooms at Cumberland Lodge
Workshop at the ACCESS Winter School
Dinner at the Winter School
People socialising In Cumberland lodge bar before the evening Environment and Sustainability quiz
A presentation from the Winter School
A walk in the rain between sessions at the Winter School
Another sitting room at Cumberland Lodge
Climate & Sustainability quiz after dinner
Sarah Golding running a session at the Winter School

The ACCESS Winter School 2023 was organised by Sarah Golding, Birgitta Gatersleben, Kate Burningham and Kirstie Hatcher (University of Surrey). The organising team are hugely grateful to all our speakers and contributors.

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