CSaP Newsletter — Number 33 (December 2013)

Message from the Executive Director

Robert DoubledayThe academic values of the University of Cambridge are summarised as “freedom of thought and expression and freedom from discrimination”. These values are combined with a commitment to serve society through excellent teaching and research. CSaP plays an important role in achieving this mission by connecting academic evidence and expertise to people working in public policy. As Claire Craig writes in this newsletter, the job of making these connections is non-trivial. CSaP serves both academic and policy communities by making the right connections, at the right time, and helping both sides build mutual trust and understanding.

CSaP’s academic colleagues recognise the value of the policy connections we are able to broker. We are delighted that CSaP will be playing a central role in all four of the recently announced University Strategic Research Initiatives in Big Data, Cardiovascular Disease, Public Policy and Synthetic Biology. I am looking forward to working actively on the steering committees of the four initiatives to foster two-way learning between government and academia.

During 2013 CSaP’s network across academia and public policy has matured significantly. Our partners in government, academia, industry and civil society are now benefiting directly from these stronger and more diverse networks of expertise. We look forward to building on this progress by putting the best academic research at the service of society in 2014.

With best wishes for the holiday season and the New Year.

Dr Robert Doubleday

Feature — Dr Claire Craig, Deputy Head of GO Science

Dr Claire Craig, Deputy Head of the Government Office for Science (GO-Science) and CSaP Associate Fellow, discusses the value of networks:

Dr Claire Craig"We all know networks are important in the abstract, but it's sometimes hard to pin down what makes them work well. GO-Science's role is to provide quality science advice across government, and to support government departments in doing so too. We rely wholly on access to the best science and scientists. One day we may be dealing with an emergency such as the disruptive effects of volcanic ash, the next looking 50 years into the future of cities. Good networks are therefore essential to us.

CSaP's ability to create and energise contacts has helped me and my teams over the last few years in at least four ways. The Distinguished Lectures have included some memorable moments. I recall particularly Adair Turner talking about how he approaches the fundamental difficulty of combining precision with impact when communicating climate science, or Jaan Tallinn setting out what he thinks needs to happen to mitigate the risks from future artificial intelligences.

Several members of GO-Science have been Policy Fellows. I've been fascinated to see how policy officials with aptitude but without a science background have been personally inspired and stretched by the opportunity to explore an issue that matters to them, such as an aspect of risk, through being immersed in academic thinking. They've emerged with fresh thoughts, networks and greater confidence in engaging with senior academics.

CSaP colleagues have spotted some useful relationships that I hadn't realised I needed, and helped me broker contacts for others in government. And now, GO-Science is collaborating with CSaP on a pilot Policy Challenge project to explore new behavioural insights into dealing with emergencies. The valuable networks continue to grow."

Top Stories

CSaP pilots Policy Challenges initiative

In October we announced a new CSaP initiative which will bring research perspectives and insights to bear on a challenge defined by policy makers. The Policy Challenges initiative mobilises our unparalleled network of Policy Fellows from the UK and the European Commission, bringing these policy makers together with existing evidence in the research arena. Championed by Policy Fellow, Liz Surkovic (Deputy Director, GO-Science), the first Challenge addresses behavioural insights into emergency planning and response. Read more here.

CSaP Policy Leaders Fellows discuss the future of the internet

CSaP's Policy Leaders Fellows (including Permanent Secretary and Director General level officials from Whitehall and Brussels, and the Chief Executives of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, TSB, Nesta and Infrastructure UK) met for their second roundtable in Michaelmas Term. The subject of discussions was technology, innovation and growth — specifically the future of the internet and its role in the birth and death of industries.

Policy Leaders are elected to the Fellowship for a two-year period, and the group is expected to grow to around 20 members. CSaP is currently investigating sustainable funding options for this programme. Read more here.

Policy Fellows this term

Following the most keenly competitive election process yet, the new members of CSaP's Policy Fellowships have been announced for Lent Term 2014.

The new Policy Fellows include Nick Timothy (Special Adviser, Home Office), Mark Samuels (MD, NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure), Elliot Shaw (Head of Governance, Department for Transport), Neil Lindsay (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), Mark Lee (Deputy Director, Planning, Department for Communities and Local Government) and Zeynep Engin (London Centre for Social Studies). Two new Junior Policy Fellows have also been elected — Alice Newton (Associate Product Manager for GOV.UK, Government Digital Service) and James Hutchinson (Senior Programme Manager for Life Sciences, Royal Society of Chemistry).

Invitations to meet Fellows during their visits will be sent out to members of our network in the coming weeks, but as ever we welcome expressions of interest from researchers who would like to be included in any of the Fellows' schedules. Read more here.

Recent Events

Energy and climate change: challenges for science and policy

On 17 October, Government Chief Scientific Adviser — Sir Mark Walport — delivered CSaP's final distinguished lecture of 2013 at Peterhouse in Cambridge, chaired by Dame Fiona Reynolds (Master of Emmanuel College Cambridge). Sir Mark began his lecture by explaining that climate change presented a complex challenge, but could be addressed as three individual challenges of science, communication and policy. Read the full story and view the lecture here.

Early-career researchers take on role of 'scientific adviser'

On 8 November, we partnered with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to host a Professional Development Policy Workshop for chemical scientists. The workshop, held at the RSC in London, brought together around 60 PhD and postdoctoral students from more than 16 academic institutions. As well as hearing how science advice gets into policy, participants learned the importance of communicating complex information quickly and effectively to non-experts. Read more here.

S T Lee Lecture: Professor Helga Nowotny on the value of uncertainty in science

Professor Helga Nowotny, President of the European Research Council, delivered this year's Dr S T Lee Public Policy Lecture on 28 November. In her talk, Nowotny emphasized the importance of presenting science to the public as an open and evolving system, where some promises made over the years have been fulfilled, and others discarded. Importantly, such uncertainty should not be seen as a drawback but rather as fertile ground for scientific advancement. Read the full story and view the lecture here.

Upcoming Events

Upcoming public policy events in Cambridge are listed on the Cambridge Public Policy website.

News in Brief

CSaP welcomes Research Associate for Policy Challenges

In October, Moira Faul joined the CSaP team to work on the new Policy Challenges initiative (described above). Originally from Zimbabwe, Moira recently finished a PhD at POLIS at the University of Cambridge, comparing formal and informal global policy networks and preferences in international development.

Defra's strategic evidence challenges

Earlier this month, CSaP convened a Policy Workshop that brought Cambridge academic experts from Geography, Land Economy, Chemistry, Zoology, Engineering and Veterinary Medicine, together with colleagues from Birmingham, Kent and Newcastle Universities to engage in discussion with Defra CSA, Professor Ian Boyd, and his team. The purpose of the workshop was to discuss, test and refine emerging ideas for the longer-term, high-level evidence challenges that Defra will need to start to address now to meet its policy requirements in the next five years and beyond.

RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme

RCUK Global Uncertainties (GU) Champion, Tristram Riley-Smith, continues to promote the GU Programme as he visits research institutions around the UK, extends his network in government, and makes new connections in the industry and charity sectors. He has also piloted a triage process to identify a small number of research projects from within the GU portfolio (over 1,100 of them) where there is untapped potential. Read more about this project here.

CSaP meets shadow business secretary during his visit to Cambridge

Last month Chuka Umunna, Labour's shadow business secretary, and his team visited Cambridge for an Industrial Strategy Roundtable at King's College. The debate revolved around the formulation of the new industrial strategy and the role of small businesses, domestic investment, and innovation within it. The role of Cambridge as a historically successful context for the flourishing of small businesses was particularly emphasized as a model for similar "hubs" of innovation elsewhere.

CSaP plays role in the four new Strategic Research Initiatives at Cambridge

Four new targets have been added to the University of Cambridge’s Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) program, which fosters multi-disciplinary collaboration to advance innovative research. CSaP will be playing a central role in all four of the SRIs by fostering connections and two-way learning between government and academia. CSaP’s Executive Director, Rob Doubleday is serving on the steering committees of the four initiatives in order to contribute CSaP’s networks and knowledge brokering experience. Read more here.

A debt of gratitude

CSaP would like to thank the David and Claudia Harding Foundation and the Isaac Newton Trust for their donations, which made the Centre's creation and continued work possible.