Meeting a CSaP Policy Fellow and MP

Guest post by Ellie Blake, PhD student and Secretary of CUSPE

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Meeting a CSaP Policy Fellow and MP

Guest post by Ellie Blake, Secretary of the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE)

In November 2021, CSaP welcomed Policy Fellow and the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jonathan Ashworth MP to Cambridge, to meet with academics and learn about their work on policy-relevant medical science topics. As Secretary of the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE), I had the exciting opportunity to shadow Jonathan and join him in his meetings, to learn more about the dynamic nature of his role.

"As a PhD student it was particularly interesting to see how research is communicated in a way that is relevant to policy."

As a society, CUSPE is interested in the intersection between science and policy and aims to build stronger links between early career researchers and policy makers. While we run lots of events which feature speakers who work in senior policy roles, the opportunity CSaP provided to follow and observe discussions of policy topics first-hand was a really unique experience, and one I found particularly insightful.

During his visit to Cambridge, Jonathan met with several academics working in fields related to his chosen topics of interest. As a PhD student it was particularly interesting to see how research is communicated in a way that is relevant to policy, and which doesn’t require a large amount of specialist knowledge, but retains important details. I found it especially interesting to see how Jonathan and academics communicated with each other on specialist and statistical aspects of research.

Talking to Jonathan helped me better understand how useful meeting with experts can be for those who work in public policy, and he commented on how valuable it is to have the opportunity to take dedicated time to step back and think about a topic in detail. I really enjoyed seeing first-hand why input from unbiased specialists is so useful, both for highlighting areas of focus, and giving insight into broad strategy types for policies that aim to improve health outcomes.

"It demonstrated how valuable the CSaP Policy Fellowship scheme is for bringing together scientists and those working in public policy."

Jonathan started his fellowship with CSaP back in January 2021 and said he found that his meetings, such as discussions on pandemic preparedness, have really helped influence the policy positions he has supported. This highlighted for me just how useful these Policy Fellowships can be for politicians, as well as non-partisan individuals working in public policy. One aspect of my time shadowing Jonathan that I found significantly interesting, was seeing how engaged he was in discussions with those he met with, and I found it brilliant to see how as a politician, being in the public eye didn’t hinder a thoughtful and engaging discussion. Another highlight for Jonathan was discussing the causes of and how to postpone dementia; he said he found it very insightful for thinking about the policy implications.

Overall, I found shadowing Jonathan to be an excellent experience that has furthered my interest in learning about and getting involved in the science for policy process. Prior to this, I was interested in understanding how scientific information is translated for the public policy field and so I really enjoyed seeing how research is communicated in this context - this was especially useful for me as an early career researcher. The experience provided an interesting insight into Jonathan’s work and that of medical science researchers in Cambridge. In summary, it demonstrated how valuable the CSaP Policy Fellowship scheme is for bringing together scientists and those working in public policy.