How can the Policy Fellowship help decision makers in government?

16 April 2018


Written by Katie Cole, Comms and Admin Coordinator

"I know of nobody who has not found this to be a really enriching, rewarding, and practically helpful experience, that is making a difference to the way government does policy."

The Centre for Science and Policy held a reception in Cambridge last month at the McGrath Centre in St Catharine's College. Along with a chance for CSaP to thank it's many contributors in Cambridge, it was also an opportunity for academics to hear from two Policy Fellows about how their Fellowship had helped them in their roles.

Sarah Connolly, Director of Security and Online Harms at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, spoke about her experience on her first visit. As the first analyst on counter-terrorism in the Home Office she had quickly learned how good analysis underpins policy, and although it can be difficult it is essential to get it right. In her current role her focus is primarily on online harms, including areas such as fake news, internet governance, and the architecture of the internet. The internet is fundamentally changing our way of life, so government has a range of priorities to focus on.

While Sarah was in Cambridge on her first visit the Prime Minister was at Davos, and Sarah explained that her evenings were spent passing on key points from her Fellowship meetings to her colleagues to be considered as content for Theresa May's speech. She found it very interesting that she was able to immediately apply considerations from her conversations with academics to current policy discussions, and in the end May's speech in Davos included a commitment to reviewing the liabilities of social media companies.

Listen to Sarah's talk here

Sarah was followed by Nick Bisson, Director for HS2 Phase 2 at the Department for Transport. Nick started with highlighting a common question that he hears; why is HS2 needed? With the number of train journeys doubling across the country, and tripling for inter-city connections such as London to Manchester, it has become clear that the Victorian infrastructure needs some assistance, but carrying out major upgrade work while keeping lines open creates plenty of problems. Building a new line is needed and one of the key aspects of the project is the economic benefits, which has been the focus of Nick's Fellowship questions and meetings.

Nick noted that Cambridge has no "Centre for Transport", but explained that this was helpful as it meant he had a chance to talk to people from a broad range of faculties, and even some groups that were outside the university boundaries such as Cambridge Econometrics. Having access to the creativity and range of thinking across the city was "a huge privilege", and he finished by commenting that the other Fellows he knew in other departments had all told him much they had enjoyed their own Fellowship, and how helpful it had been to their roles.

Listen to Nick's talk here

The reception also saw the launch of the 2017 CSaP Annual Report, you can view and download a copy here.

Dr Nick Bisson

Department for Transport (DfT)

Sarah Connolly

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)