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Brexit minister Rt Hon David Jones MP visits UCL

GuestBlogger30 March 2017

pencil-iconWritten by Conor Rickford, Senior Partnership Manager (Europe)

On 16 March 2017, UCL hosted a visit by a UCL alumnus and someone who will be about as close to the Brexit negotiations as one can get. Rt Hon David Jones MP, formerly a UCL Laws student and Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union, one of the key departments involved in negotiating the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, spent an afternoon speaking with a number of UCL staff and students.

David Jones MP Minister of State, DExEU

David Jones MP
Minister of State, DExEU
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

With the “Brexit Bill” having received Royal Assent earlier that morning and David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, naming the UK a “science superpower” at the Brexit Select Committee just the day before, it was a great opportunity to show the breadth and diversity of UCL’s expertise, outline some key concerns of students and staff and look at what the future might hold for UK universities.

Over the course of the day, the Minister met with many students and researchers, some of whom remain unsure as to what the future might hold for those EU nationals currently residing in the UK.

The Minister emphasised that resolving right to remain is a “top issue” for DExEU negotiations and when Article 50 is invoked, it will almost certainly be among the first matters that the negotiators from both sides will want to resolve.

With more than 20% of our staff and around 12% of our students being EU (non-UK) citizens, I am sure that the vast majority at UCL would very much welcome an early declaration on this matter.

At the London Centre of Nanotechnology, the Minister met with students and research staff from both the LCN and UCL Mechanical Engineering.

Following a crash course in atomic force microscopy and quantum computing, he heard how existing EU research schemes have facilitated the creation of valuable collaborative networks across Europe.

The Minister pointed to Theresa May’s statement that the UK would “welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives” as a good indication that the government will seek to protect those strong research links after the UK’s departure from EU.

In my role in the Global Engagement Office, I often have to fall back on European funding stats to quickly summarise UCL’s research excellence (175 ERC grantees so far, more than €750m received in 2015…!), so it was refreshing to hear how our researchers value the opportunities to seamlessly collaborate across borders just as much as the funding itself.

Could this be the way to get your research into the public eye?

GuestBlogger15 December 2015

pencil-icon  Written by Olivia Stevenson & Greg Tinker with Michael Kenny, Catherine Miller & Graeme Reid

Scientists and researchers from across academia are engaged in research that could make a difference to the world, but until you take it beyond the university doors its impact and reach will remain low.

Select Committee noticeUCL and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, teamed up to host a public event with parliamentary insiders and evidence experts, exploring how academia could engage the world of government, particularly through select committees.

The question on everyone’s mind was ‘can this type of academic-government engagement generate real world impacts?’ Here is what our speakers told us:

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Getting science into policy in international development: faults on both sides?

GuestBlogger2 December 2015

pencil-icon Written by Ms Helen Hopkins, Dr Olivia Stevenson and Mr Greg Tinker (OVPR)

These days you are just as likely to hear academics as you are policymakers use terms such as ‘evidence-based’, ‘evidence-informed’, or ‘evidence-led’ policy. Yet barriers to getting science into policy in international development remain.

Professor Christopher Whitty has witnessed this first hand as Chief Scientific Advisor (CSA) and Director of Research and Evidence to the Department for International Development (DFID). Now his term has come to a close, he joined us at UCL to reflect on the challenges of the CSA role and to answer the question, ‘How do we increase the uptake of academic research within policy?’

Science in emergencies: the need for speed
The 2015 Nepal earthquake, the 2014 Ebola crisis and Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines in 2013, all happened while Professor Whitty was DFID CSA. He soon learnt that during emergencies, ministers were keen to listen to scientific advice: action needed to be taken quickly, backed up with solid evidence. Professor Whitty described this as the easy part of his job, as he had a captive audience.

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2015 UCL and the Wellcome Trust Science Policy Question Time

GuestBlogger2 November 2015

pencil-iconWritten by Mr Greg Tinker and Dr Olivia Stevenson (OVPR)

pp1Five things we learned about the pressures on science in the UK

In advance of the 2015 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), an event organised by UCL and the Wellcome Trust, in the style of the BBC’s ever-popular Question Time series, sought to answer some of the most pressing questions facing the science community today.

Graeme Reid, Professor of Science and Research Policy at UCL, stepped into David Dimbleby’s shoes, putting questions from a lively audience of more than 100 people to an expert panel.

The panel included representatives from academia, funding bodies and the media and Professor Reid described their contributions as “brave, quick-thinking and well informed”. But what did we learn from their lively exploration of key science policy issues?

The science community wants to stay in the EU, but can they persuade the public?

Unpp2like the BBC’s Question Time, there was broad consensus among the panel and the audience that Britain’s membership of the EU is vital: for science research; for the growth of knowledge through EU students at UK universities and through world-leading research collaborations and partnerships. But panellist Alun Evans, Chief Executive of the British Academy, sounded a note of caution, suggesting that this debate, like the 2014 Scottish Referendum, won’t be fought on details, such as science funding. While this is “regrettable”, scientists “need to come up with arguments that make a difference to public opinion”.

Universities, or at least their Vice-Chancellors and Provosts, are likely to campaign to remain in the EU ahead of the 2017 referendum. But panel member Adam Smith, Assistant Communities Editor at the Economist, noted that, as institutions seek to fulfil their role as places of debate, will those outside universities accept that they need to be neutral spaces where all arguments can be heard?

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