Newsletter July/August 2009
Welcome to the first Newsletter from the Centre for Science and Policy, the University of Cambridge's new initiative to cultivate stronger relationships between policy-makers and experts in science and engineering. In this issue:
- helping policy-makers plan for tomorrow's world
- building a responsive organisation
- getting the balancing act right
- strengthening existing collaborations
Helping policy-makers plan for tomorrow's world A new multidisciplinary organisation, bringing together the best scientific thinking to help inform public policy, was launched last month by the University of Cambridge. The Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) builds on the legacy of the highly successful Cambridge University Government Policy Programme (1998-2007), and will provide policy-makers with access to the University's wealth of world-leading scientific expertise. More...
Building a responsive organisationFor the past six months, the CSaP has been holding a series of consultation meetings to discuss and prioritise the key topics that the Centre will address, identify what scientific expertise should be brought to bear, and decide how best to engage senior officials in government. This consultation is an ongoing process built into the ethos of CSaP to ensure it remains responsive to the ever-changing context of policy-making. More...
Getting the balancing act right Government policy can impact on the environment and its ecosystems in complex ways, and policy-makers face significant challenges in measuring the costs and benefits of any actions. For example, government agencies making decisions about how to allocate public money to protect and restore the natural environment must take into account myriad factors such as environmental quality, threats to ecosystem integrity, and the effects on people's quality of life. How policy-makers can reach and justify their cost-benefit decisions, and how best to quantify impacts and trade-offs, will be the focus of a forthcoming workshop - "The Valuation of Ecosystems". Taking place on 3 September, the workshop is organised by CSaP and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative on behalf of DEFRA.More...
Strengthening existing collaborations An international workshop on the "Implications of Climate Change and Variability on African Water Resources" will be hosted by the University of Cambridge from 21-25 September under the Global Water Initiative (GWI), a collaboration with the University of California, San Diego and others to explore the links between climate change, natural resources and development priorities.More...
Helping policy-makers plan for tomorrow's world (cont.)
"At this moment, humanity faces unprecedented challenges and great opportunities," says Dr David Cleevely FREng, Founding Director of the CSaP. "Many of the world's growing population hope to benefit from increased technological development, but this same development could cause irreversible damage to the climate and biosphere. Advances in bio- and nanotechnology promise immense benefits to society, but also raise new ethical and security dilemmas. Policy to address these issues cannot be made in a vacuum," says Cleevely. "To make informed decisions, it's vital that policy-makers can access leading scientific expertise across multiple disciplines."
Facilitating informed decision-making is at the heart of the CSaP's work. Centre Interest Groups will enable open communication between policy-makers and thought-leaders in technology, engineering, biology, social and political sciences as well as philosophy and law. The CSaP will be a major resource for the UK but will be international in its reach, working with academic institutions, think tanks, Government research units and businesses around the world.
Building a responsive organisation (cont.)
Cutting-edge academic research often has far-reaching implications for government decision-making. A central part of the CSaP's mission is to help Cambridge academics communicate the importance of their work to policy-makers, and it extends an open invitation to researchers in Cambridge to submit topic areas and conveners for consideration.
In addition to identifying new topics, the Centre will continue to run a portfolio of small workshops for policy-makers originally set up by the Cambridge University Government Policy Programme. These workshops will cover issues such as decarbonisation; public health and genomics; biosystems modelling; security and risk; and self-identification in networks. There are already many successful links between research groups at the University of Cambridge and Government bodies. The CSaP aims to build on and support these links by setting up Centre Interest Groups around existing networks and topic areas.
The CSaP's External Consultation Group holds bi-annual meetings to provide suggestions for the Centre's future direction and activities. The next meeting will take place on 29 October 2009 at the Royal Society in London.
Getting the balancing act right (cont.)
Policy workshops are perhaps one of the most important outputs of the CSaP, promoting multidisciplinary discussion between domain experts and senior policy-makers. The workshop for DEFRA will present a Cambridge perspective on issues including defining ecosystems and how they work, and the applications and limitations of current valuation methodologies. Participants include members of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and senior policy-makers from DEFRA. Participation is by invite only; to find out more about the workshop, please get in touch with CSaP directly - contact details below.
Strengthening existing collaborations (cont.)
The GWI workshop will bring together international experts from Africa, the UK, the US and elsewhere in an effort to better understand and map the impacts of local climate change and variability across the world, with a particular emphasis on water resources in African regions. The workshop will also identify the research, technology, and data-management required for sustainable development policy-making. With the involvement of local policy-makers and communities, the workshop will seek to improve the connections between science, local data, and the implementation of effective adaptation strategies, while developing partnerships for promoting research initiatives and exchanging best practices and adaptable technologies.
Within the University of Cambridge, the workshop will be promoted by CSaP together with the Judge Business School's Centre for Energy Studies (CCES). This collaboration is an example of how CSaP will seek to support and build on the links that already exist between research groups and policy-makers. During September, CSaP will be bringing together interested parties to examine the strategic research opportunities and partnerships for Cambridge on the topics of regional climate change, water resource management, and integrated policies for sustainable development. This will promote the success of the GWI workshop and could potentially become the basis for a CSaP Centre Interest Group.
CSaP News in Brief
Come and visit us online. The Centre for Science and Policy has a new website www.csap.cam.ac.uk, where you can find more information about what we do and how we work, together with regular updates on the creation and ongoing work of Centre Interest Groups, the forthcoming event calendar and news about the Fellowship Programmes. Please also visit the website if you want to subscribe to this Newsletter, or sign up as an Affiliate.
Cambridge in America. The Founding Director of the CSaP, Dr David Cleevely, will address Cambridge in America's Major Gifts Committee meeting in New York on 14 September on the subject of "The Sciences and Technology in the Services of Society: Unlocking Cambridge's potential to inform policy-makers".
A debt of gratitude. CSaP would like to thank the David Harding Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust for their donations which made the Centre's creation possible.
CSaP in the news. "Cambridge Dons look to Steer Global Policy", Business Weekly, 13 July 2009; "Cleevely Takes Reins at new Policy Centre", Cambridge Evening News, 14 July 2009; "Cambridge Establishes New Centre for Science and Policy", ScienceBusiness, 16 July 2009.