Reported by Ryan Hamnett, MRC-funded CSaP Policy Intern (September - December 2016)
“I would encourage anybody who has the opportunity to work more closely with researchers to take it.”
These were the words of Clare Moriarty, Permanent Secretary for Defra, extolling the virtues of engaging with and embracing what the academic community can offer policy makers in the pursuit of evidence-based policy, which has been the message and mission of the Centre for Science and Policy since its establishment in 2009.
Her speech, and that of Professor Steve Evans shortly thereafter, was heard at the Centre for Science and Policy’s Annual Reception at the Royal Society, which brought together 170 policy makers, academics, medical professionals and industry representatives to celebrate building bridges between science and policy.
The Annual Reception followed on from an afternoon of networking for members of CSaP’s Policy Fellowship programme, at which David Cleevely (Chair, CSaP Advisory Council) and Rob Doubleday (Executive Director, CSaP) updated guests on the continued growth and development of the programme. The Fellowship has now connected 240 Fellows from government, industry and the third sector with the cutting edge of academic research. It also served as a point of feedback for the Fellows themselves, with many emphasising the value of the breadth of thinking encouraged by their Fellowships.
“I feel proud and privileged to have been part of the start of the Policy Leaders Fellows programme”
Clare Moriarty, a CSaP Policy Leaders Fellow, described experiences throughout her career which had reinforced the value of strong communication between policy and research, before going on to explain why she had enjoyed the PLF programme as one of its first members. “One of the great things I’ve found about the Policy Leaders Fellow scheme is that it gets you thinking about things that you might not otherwise come into contact with… The termly roundtable discussions which are at the heart of the programme are wonderfully eclectic.”
She also explained the value of her one-to-one meetings with academics in Cambridge, another aspect of the PLF programme. These included conversations with professors in a variety of fields including Professor Frank Kelly, Professor Athene Donald and Professor Cam Middleton, the latter of whom has started a research initiative with Southwestern Trains, partly as a result of his interaction with Clare.
“Our world is interested in solving problems that have meaning. And that meaning is often through policy and implementation”
Professor Steve Evans of the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge spoke of the benefits that researchers can take from meeting with policy makers. He explained that understanding policy was important because it had a large impact on the focus of investigations, stating that he had “changed [his] research agenda… largely through communicating with Policy Fellows”. He also spoke of academics and policy makers needing to find a common language in order to better communicate, saying “the most common language that we have is the language of society, the citizen, the problem, and I think it works best when we use that language”.