Gabriel Huntley: Case study

Head of Communications and External Relations at University Alliance

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Head of Communications and External Relations, University Alliance

When starting my CSaP Fellowship, I wanted to better understand the ways the world is changing: through new technologies and their adoption, cures to diseases and new solutions to global challenges. My objective was to consider what actions policymakers can take, and what levers they can pull, to enable and remove barriers to this process.

Meetings with researchers gave me time and space to reflect on how policy can be better informed by evidence, what the implications for political and policymaking processes might be, and to consider how citizens can be empowered in a more meaningful way.

The Fellowship has helped me develop my understanding of the challenges faced by those in positions of authority. As a non-scientist, I expected discussions to focus primarily on the technical aspects of different disciplines, alongside political, societal bureaucratic barriers.

But my conversations with researchers from a range of disciplines were more nuanced, highlighting that issues of public concern such as privacy, sustainability, risk, ethics, accountability, governance are both legitimate considerations and essential to any understanding of technological development and the practice of scientific enquiry. The two cannot exist in separate silos.

For me, this underscored the importance of thinking and working in an interdisciplinary way and understanding the role played by incentive structures, organisational cultures, behaviour and decision making processes.

Alongside learning about scientific developments with the capacity to transform our lives over the coming century and the historical context in which they sit, my Fellowship has also given me a greater appreciation of the practical and economic implications of research, innovation and entrepreneurship. In particular, this has been through discussions on Cambridge’s economic development over the past half century and the conditions and attributes which have underpinned it. Many of those I met had experience in the world of business or government, as well as individuals with an academic background.

I have greatly enjoyed being able to think and talk about policy issues in a way which transcends specialisms and disciplines, drawing on examples from the past and the present, and from different contexts across the globe, in the discussions I’ve had so far.

Looking ahead, I am reflecting on how the perspectives I have gained can be incorporated into the context of my professional life and work and on potentially taking forward further collaborative work on the relationship between technology, democracy and public engagement in future, drawing on Policy Fellows and others I have met through the Fellowship.