Behavioural Scientists learn about challenges of the policy-making process

16 December 2014


On Tuesday 2 December 45 early-career behavioural scientists gathered in Downing College to learn about the policy environment and the skills needed to interact effectively with policy makers. This event, run in conjunction with Cambridge Neuroscience aimed to introduce PhD students and early-career post-docs to the world of policy-making.

The day started with an introduction to science policy from Miles Parker, who was able to provide insights from his experiences as a senior civil servant. The morning, chaired by Robert Doubleday, was a panel discussion by senior academics who have experiences interacting with the policy world. The speakers of panel one were, Theresa Marteau (Institute of Public Health), Michelle Baddeley (UCL), and Barabara Sahakian (Department of Psychiatry), and Steve Welsh from the Behaviour and Disruption Team at the National Crime Agency. The discussions demonstrated the breadth of activities that academics can participate in with policy makers, as well as the timescales and workloads that are associated with this.

Lunch was followed by a group exercise in which the attendees had to propose policy options for the reduction of harmful drinking to a panel representing a time-pressed Minister. This exercise aimed to mimc the style of discussion that may face junior civil servants, and also gave a chance for researchers from different fields to work together and share their insights.

A panel of policy makers finished the formal part of the day with a discussion of their view of engagement with researchers. The panel was comprised of David Nutt, Harriet Wallace, Kilian Bourke and Laura Haynes, providing expertise from both local and national government. This session provided lively debate to feedback from the group activity, as well as providing invaluable advice for getting involved in the policy process.

The day ended with networking over drinks - allowing the researchers to meet others in a similar field, as well as have more conversations with the speakers. The early-career researchers left with expanded horizons, enthused and informed about the ways in which they could engage with policy and apply their expertise for public benefit. One attendee commented: "Truly enjoyed the workshop. It was very insightful and covered integrative topics related to policy and influencing policy making".

The event was captured by this storify.