Newsletter - March 2011
Message from the Executive Director
As this month's Newsletter shows, March has been a busy month for the Centre in our mission to build relationships between researchers and policy makers. During the month, working closely with colleagues in the Institute for Manufacturing and the Policy Fellows Network, we welcomed to Cambridge the most senior politicians and civil servants to take part in our programmes to date, including the Governor of Massachusetts and the Director General for International Climate Change and Energy Efficiency from DECC. We were also pleased to be able to continue working with post-graduate students in the University to organise two fascinating lectures, and to begin mapping out the research landscape in Cambridge as it relates to the major policy concerns of government.
The pace doesn't let up in April, as we embark on a packed programme of events, and look forward to welcoming several new Policy Fellows to Cambridge in May. April begins with the Science and Policy Studies Group's workshop examining the key research questions on the science-policy relationship, and concludes with a joint seminar with GO-Science under the banner "Science on the Inside", bringing together scientists and policy professionals to explore the impact of science on policy from the perspective of practitioners. In between we kick off a new topic area on risk and uncertainty, by convening a meeting of researchers and policy makers to discuss precaution and resilience.
This edition of our newsletter includes:
- The Governor of Massachusetts's "Innovation Economy" Mission in Cambridge
- Lectures by the Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and the Chief Scientific Adviser in the Department for Communities and Local Government
- The launch of the Cambridge Public Policy Seminar Series in May
- News on our latest Policy Fellows and upcoming events.
Dr Chris Tyler
Centre for Science and Policy
Research and Policy for High-Tech Innovation
On 15 March, CsaP and the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) co-hosted a visit to Cambridge by the State Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, and his Innovation Economy Partnership Mission. The twin aims of the visit were to exchange ideas about research, policy and practice for innovation, and to explore opportunities for future collaboration between two of the world's most successful "innovation ecosystems". The 100-strong audience included researchers, students and entrepreneurs in life sciences, ICT and clean energy, as well as policy makers from the Governor's team and the CSaP network.
You can read more here about the workshop, including contributions from Dr Graeme Reid (Deputy Director, Economic Impact, BIS) on the importance of universities for the performance of the UK economy; Dr Eoin O'Sullivan (Senior Policy Fellow, IfM) on the factors which have led to the UK punching above its weight for a share of R&D inward investment; Dr Tim Minshall (Senior Lecturer, IfM) on the "success story" of the Cambridge Technopole; and Dr Julian Huppert (MP for Cambridge) on the role of government innovation policy and the new "Entrepreneurship Charter".
You can also listen here to Governor Patrick's address, in which he set out the key themes of his State's strategy for growth - education, innovation and infrastructure - and stressed the importance of governing for the long term by making the choice to invest today in tomorrow's knowledge industries. In the lively discussion which followed, the Governor discussed healthcare reform in the US as a catalyst for innovation in the life sciences; the role of the government as an enabler of entrepreneurial activity; and his policies in the green tech arena, including his aim to stimulate the demand for renewable technologies. He described the carbon emissions trading scheme in which Massachusetts participates as the only market model that has worked to date - although in discussion with Dr Chris Hope he conceded that the prices currently used for carbon trading massively understate the true economic price.
CSaP Founding Director David Cleevely drew proceedings to a close by welcoming Governor Patrick to the Associate Fellowship of the Centre, citing in particular his commitment to science, innovation and education at the core of his State's strategy for growth.
Science in Emergencies
There are three phases in an emergency - preparation, reaction and recovery - and scientific advice, argued Andrew Miller MP (Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee) has a place in all three. He was speaking following the launch of his Committee's report on Science in Emergencies at a lecture organised by the Darwin College Students Association and sponsored by CSaP.
You can read about his lecture here, including his analysis of the government's use of risk assessment and the need for a new advisory committee on risk management. Communication of risk and uncertainty, he argued, remains a significant problem, though a potential solution is for the communicators to work more closely with behavioural scientists, to get a clearer insight into how people understand risk and uncertainty. This theme will be taken up in the Centre's new interdisciplinary discussions in this area (see News in Brief below).
The Q&A session following the lecture covered horizon scanning and academic rigour, the difference between natural hazards and malicious hazards, the use of reasonable worst case scenarios and the precautionary principle, the role of the media, and whether the Treasury would benefit from a risk register of its own.
Also in the same series of lectures, on 17 March, Professor Jeremy Watson, Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Communities and Local Government, spoke on innovation in the construction sector. Reducing the carbon impact of existing buildings may cost as much as £500 billion over the next 40 years, and will require new financial and business models, new technologies, scale-up of skills and supply, and a cross-domain collaborative approach to product and service development. In his lecture Professor Watson described how new methods of innovation are being developed to address these needs; he drew on examples from various organisations including Arup (where he is Global Research Director), particularly its knowledge management and innovation methodology linking foresight with practice via research.
For more details of the lecture, please click here.
Policy Fellowships Programme
Our latest Policy Fellow has also been our most senior to date - Phil Wynn Owen, DECC's Director General for International Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. On his first visit in March, Phil met researchers from the Computer Lab, Judge Business School, Economics and Psychology to explore the relevance and impact of the latest research in business economics, climate change economics and behavioural economics. He will be followed in May by senior visitors from the Department for Transport, GO-Science, the Home Office, and the British Airports Authority.
The success of the Policy Fellowships in building relationships between policy professionals and researchers will be formally recognised at a launch event in London on 6 July, at which potential future fellows will have the chance to hear from existing members of the network about the value they have derived from the programme.
Cambridge Public Policy Seminar Series
A new seminar series focusing on public policy is being launched in May. Running for an hour at Friday lunchtime (1.00-2.00), these seminars aim to bring together a diverse range of academics (from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering and technology) to discuss the public policy implications of their research. The format of each seminar will be a 25- to 30-minute talk followed by an open discussion. The Department of Engineering has kindly offered to host the first series of seminars, on 6, 13, 20 and 27 May (in LR4, except for 13 May, when the seminar will take place in LR6). The speakers and topics will be as follows:
6 May (CUED LR4): Dealing with Change. Speaker: the Rt Hon Charles Clarke, former MP, Chair of the Labour Party, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and Home Secretary, and now Visiting Professor at UEA.
13 May (CUED LR6): Title to be confirmed. Speaker: Dr Miles Elsden, Head of Civil Contingencies, Health and Biotechnology Teams, Government Office for Science, and CSaP Policy Fellow.
20 May (CUED LR4): Judging Nudging: can nudging improve population health? Speaker: Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the Policy Research Unit on Behaviour and Health, University of Cambridge.
27 May (CUED LR4): The hidden impacts of delay - a case of large infrastructure development. Speaker: Judith Plummer, Senior Financial Analyst with the World Bank and PhD student, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge.
The organisers are keen to receive suggestions for future speakers in the series, including graduate students, post docs, faculty and visitors. Please send recommendations to Miranda Gomperts.
News in Brief
Science and Policy Studies Research Questions Programme
The CSaP's Science and Policy Studies Group has completed an exercise to collate key research questions on the science-policy relationship for discussion at a workshop on 7 April in Cambridge. Sponsored by NICE and the Society of Biology, the workshop will bring together physical scientists, social scientists and engineers, as well as policy professionals who work with scientific evidence, to discuss, sift and refine the research questions proposed. The group expects these questions to stimulate debate and contribute to the development of research agendas in science policy studies, science and technology studies and related academic fields.
Meeting on Risk and Uncertainty in Policy - 11 April 2011
On 11 April, CSaP is convening a meeting of Cambridge academics and policy professionals to initiate a discussion around two key policy issues relating to risk and uncertainty - precaution and resilience. The intersection of these issues provides a rich ground on which to bring together the latest academic thinking, cutting-edge business practice and policy experience. We will ask three questions (what are the risks? what are the uncertainties? how precautionary should UK policy be?) in connection with three areas - finance, infrastructure and natural resources. Meanwhile, interested members of the network might like to look out for BBC One's Bang Goes the Theory on 4 April, dealing with risk and based in part on the work of Professor David Spiegelhalter.
Launch of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit - 11 April 2011
The aim of the new Behaviour and Health Research Unit (BHRU) is to contribute evidence to national and international efforts to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities. Poor diet, lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption are together responsible for the huge burden of chronic disease worldwide; they also contribute to the differences in life expectancy between the poorest and the richest in the UK and elsewhere. But while most people value their health, many persist in behaviour that undermines it. The BHRU, which has been set up with funding from the Department of Health Policy Research Programme, launches in Cambridge on 11 April. If you would like to attend the launch, please email Tamsin Sayer.
Science on the Inside - 28 April 2011
This joint event between CSaP and GO-Science will bring together scientists and policy professionals to explore the increasing impact of science on policy from the perspective of practitioners. The seminar will convene a panel of scientists who have experience of working inside policy making, and policy professionals (some of whom will be untrained in the sciences) who work with scientific evidence and scientists. Discussions will focus on what the panellists have learned about scientific research and its relevance to the improvement of public policy, as well as how a science presence inside Whitehall has contributed to the understanding of what universities are for. For more information see here.
CSaP Distinguished Lecture - 12 May 2011 (5:30 to 7:00)
The next lecture in the CSaP Distinguished Lecture Series will be given on 12 May by Professor Christopher Bishop, Distinguished Scientist, Microsoft Research Cambridge. Last November, Microsoft released its latest computer gaming package Kinect, whose 3D camera technology allows users to control games using their entire body. This talk traces the fascinating story of how Kinect was created, explores the science behind the technology, and highlights the role of basic research as a driver of successful innovation. To register, please visit our website.
Connections Lecture Series (Professor Christopher Whitty) - 27 May 2011
The next speaker in the Connections lecture series is Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser in the Department for International Development. The Connections series brings prominent speakers to Cambridge to talk about topical issues and provide networking opportunities. To register your place, please click here.
Professional Development Seminar for Engineers - 23 June 2011
Following the success of its pilot seminar, the Centre has launched a programme of Professional Development Policy Seminars for early career researchers, introducing them to the opportunities and the realities of engaging with policy. The next seminar will take place on the afternoon of 23 June and will have an engineering focus. The purpose of the seminar is to bring together researchers and policy makers working on engineering issues, who wish to engage in discussion and debate and think longer term about career paths and goals. If you are interested in attending, please email us.
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.