Jenny Dibden

Director Science and Research at Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Director Science and Research, BEIS, and Head of the Government Social Research Service
Policy Fellow Alum, Centre for Science and Policy

Jenny Dibden joined the civil service in 1988 as a Social Science Research Officer, and since then has worked in variety of analyst, policy and operational posts; she is currently Director, Research Base (as a job share) at BIS. In 2010 she became Joint Head of the Government Social Research Service (GSR), in which role she sits on the Heads of Analysis Group, chaired by the Treasury’s Permanent Secretary and made up of the heads of all the analytical professions. (The government analytical professions - i.e. the GSR, the Economic Service, the Statistical Service, the Operational Research Service and Science & Engineering - exist to enable government to be an intelligent producer, purchaser and user of evidence, helping to ensure that the government is informed by robust, relevant and high quality research and advice, appropriately interpreted for those developing and implementing policy.)

In her role as GSR Joint Head, Jenny is concerned with ensuring that the quality of analytical advice provided to ministers, policy advisers and operational colleagues is high, and with developing the current and future capacity and capability for analytical advice (whether derived from inside and outside government). In this role she has observed that an empirical approach is typically adopted, relying on observation and experiment rather than theory, and resulting in largely incremental adjustments to quantitative and qualitative methods and sources. In her Policy Fellowship, Jenny wants to explore the role of more fundamental challenges, asking the high-level question "can radical challenge improve the advice provided by government analysts?" - with particular reference to social science advice provided to policy makers. She hopes to explore a wide range of experiences and perspectives around the following:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current, empirical approach to policy advice? What alternative ways of thinking exist, and what are their strengths and weaknesses? Can alternative ways of thinking be used to make analytical advice better?
  • Could policy makers make use of a completely different order of challenge to their own profession? If so, what is the role of a strategic leader in the active and fundamental challenge of how their own profession operates?
  • What are the implications for policy making of potential changes to the way analytical advice is produced?
  • How can senior leaders in government analysis actively and fundamentally challenge the way advice is provided? Can they further "design out" complacency and "design in" challenge, responding to it constructively and making it a normal and natural part of business?