Harriet Wallace: Case Study

at Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)

CSaP Policy Fellow 2013 - 2015
Director Science, International at BEIS

15 May 2019

I began the Policy Fellowship at a time when I was thinking about future jobs. It gave me a great opportunity to expand my vision of what’s going in science at that time and gain a wider understanding of the challenges we face. I found the fellowship to be like a spring clean for the brain, it allowed me to take a step back from my day job and think bigger, broader and wider. My meeting with academics gave me the chance to learn and reflect on a lot of things that I wouldn't normally have a chance to go near. The experience inspired me to think differently about problems and approach them in new ways.

My experience as a Policy Fellow led to my commissioning CSaP to organize a Policy Workshop on the Clean Air Strategy. CSaP put together a really rich set of from NGOs, natural sciences, social sciences and local councils to meet with me and my team. The variety of experts that CSaP brings together creates a great atmosphere for approaching tricky problems and allowed us to re-assess our posistions on certain topics. The workshop helped us develop our policies on Clean Air and process some of the thornier issues we were facing.

I've worked very closely with researchers throughout my career and I've learned a lot about how to use evidence and science well to inform policy. Interestingly, some academics really understand our perspective as policy makers and that really helps us to pull the most effective bits of evidence out of research to feed straight into policy. But not only does it help us, the researchers we work with also learn a lot about how they can deploy their work more effectively, both in terms of policy work but also in terms of the wider stories that are being told their topic. For me, it's how you work across that interface, you're putting the best science out and you're using the best science to inform policy but you're also using it to inform the stakeholder understanding of the science.

For policy makers, working with researchers is essential to get our points across and gain trust from the public in our policy decisions. Having multiple voices backing up our given decisions is key, so it's also important that scientists influence directly, not only the government but also the wider debate and wider understanding of issues.