I began my CSaP Policy Fellowship while I was a Special Adviser to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP when he was Home Secretary. I thought there was scope for policy makers at the Home Office to draw on academic expertise to a greater extent across a broad and challenging set of issues, and the CSaP Policy Fellowship seemed to offer an excellent opportunity for me to meet academics to provide perspectives in a number of areas.
For instance, I explored the topic of frictionless borders in meetings with several researchers in fields like computer science. I learned from Professor John Daugman about the history of the implementation of some of the technologies for identity checks at UK borders and comparison of some of the biometric methods.
I also met a number of academics in social science fields, and had a very useful discussion with Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe about her research on the Sure Start programme. This was relevant to the Home Office’s investment in the Youth Endowment Fund. I also valued my meeting with Professor Catherine Barnard, discussing the UK’s exit from the EU and other issues. It was a pleasure to spend time with such an eminent legal mind, gaining fresh perspectives and feeling able to ask any questions.
After five years in Special Adviser roles, I left in 2019 and have welcomed my continued involvement with CSaP. I’m working with a number of companies of different sizes as a strategy and communications consultant. My experience with CSaP has helped inform how I go about gathering information in my current roles. I think that interacting with a wide range of academics has helped me come to issues with a more holistic view.
I have been pleased to work with CSaP on some podcasts as part of the ‘Science, Policy and Pandemics series’. I co-hosted a couple of podcasts with CSaP Executive Director Dr Rob Doubleday. During the podcast featuring Lord Darling, who was Secretary of State for Transport from 2002-6 and Professor Frank Kelly, who was the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Transport during that time, we had a fascinating discussion. The example was shared of technical infrastructure and data sharing established then, through Transport Direct, which went on to be a significant part of how Google Maps and other services provide travel guidance to people. I found it valuable to revisit that example and reflect upon how proposals from scientific and technical advisers can be considered in tackling particular problems that needed solving, and the roles of government and companies in implementation.