Marconi Professor of Networked Systems, University of Cambridge
As a Professor in the Faculty of Computer Science, many of the things I work on – both in research and education – potentially entail important policy considerations. CSaP’s programmes, particularly the Policy Fellowships and the Policy Workshops, provide a fantastic opportunity to interact directly with the policy makers who are grappling with the relevant issues in government and industry.
Over the past two years, I have met more than fifteen Policy Fellows, who have raised a wide range of questions – from “what technological changes will shape the development of the internet over the next five to ten years?” to “what do we know about the social connectivity of older people, and how does it vary across the population?” via “how can governments best exploit citizen-generated data and ‘big data’ analysis?”. The questions are always unique, though there are consistent themes around innovation, resilience and cybersecurity.
The flow of value from these discussions falls readily into one of two typical patterns. On the one hand, it’s often the case that some piece of technology which we are researching could have an impact on policy – for example, free broadband for all, or more usable information systems, could both have a high societal value, and could reduce the cost of delivery of health, education and other government services. On the other hand, understanding the threats to national services and infrastructures can inform the requirements on the resilience of computing systems for the future.
Thus the impact of the discussions with policy makers can be felt either in a change in the direction of policy, or a change in the emphasis in our own research. Both results are pleasing, in that they make my work more relevant and act as feedback that means that the funding agencies get better value for money.
This is the second year that I have been extremely happy with the experience of working with the Centre for Science and Policy and its network, and I look forward to continuing this in 2013.