Dr Leila Luheshi: Case study


Programme Lead (Science), The PHG Foundation
CSaP-Government Secondee, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (2013)

Science and scientific research have been my passion ever since I first stepped into a research laboratory as a 15 year-old on work experience. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be paid to spend my days investigating the inner workings of the brain and participating in the search for cures to some of the most devastating neurodegenerative diseases affecting our society today.

Like many scientists I have also become increasingly aware of the wider impact that scientific research can have on public policy. With this awareness has come a desire to understand and participate in the policy process – and particularly to contribute to better policy making by encouraging analytical and evidence-based approaches. CSaP has provided a fantastic platform upon which I have been able to do this, first by helping to facilitate and report on policy workshops, but more recently as a secondee working within Whitehall itself.

I am currently working one day a week in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), helping to devise and analyse a call for evidence to inform the UK Government’s agri-tech strategy. It has been particularly rewarding to participate in a project aimed at finding ways to convert the world-class research going on in our universities into innovations that will provide social and economic benefits both here and overseas.

One of my aims for the secondment was to understand more about the nature and origins of the gap between the generation and application of scientific knowledge and the formulation of public policy. Whilst it is clear that the two processes are far from perfectly aligned, my experience thus far suggests that the gap between them may not be as wide as I had first thought. Indeed, the process of developing the agri-tech strategy is not at all dissimilar to the process of writing a grant application for a new research project; a constant quest to balance ambition, excitement and new ideas with the reality of financial constraints, competing interests, contentious reviewers, and most of all... tight deadlines!