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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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How experts can give better advice to policymakers

OliUsher3 July 2015

Sir Mark Walport addresses the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s annual conference

Sir Mark Walport addresses the Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s annual conference

One of the main purposes of government is to manage risks. Key to assessing these risks is scientific and technical expertise. So conversations between academics and policymakers are very important.

Unfortunately these conversations can sometimes be at cross purposes. Fortunately, when framed correctly, and with both sides understanding each other, discussions between policymakers and academics can be hugely fruitful.

This was the argument of Sir Mark Walport, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, in his keynote address to the UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s annual conference on June 25.

So how should academics talk to policymakers?

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Greening the recovery: the report of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission

HenryRummins27 February 2014

gepc1

“We need to recognise the fierce urgency of now,” declared Professor Paul Ekins at the opening of the launch of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission’s Greening the recovery report, in what appeared to be the beginning of an impassioned rallying cry for a radical overhaul of the UK’s economy.

Instead, Professor Ekins pointed out that this was a soundbite uttered by the Chancellor George Osborne five years ago.

By repeating it, his aim was to sound a note of caution about the likelihood that the recommendations by UCL’s Green Economy Policy Commission – comprising a range of UCL, visiting, and external academics – would be adopted.

This was despite the fact that the panel of experts brought together to discuss the report all broadly agreed that its objective of a greener economy was laudable, even if they didn’t agree on how to get there.

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Aid for Health simulation

newseditor17 December 2012

UCL students and staff taking part in the ‘Aid
for Health’ negotiations at the Institute for
Global Health

Written by Rebecca Seglow Hudson (BSc Anthropology undergraduate).

UCL’s Institute for Global Health (IGH) was the site of some heated negotiations on Saturday 8 December.

A collection of 72 students, with an enormous range of experience and disciplinary backgrounds, spent the day simulating the discussions behind international aid deals.

Students represented organisations such as the World Bank, USAID, UNICEF and governmental departments of the simulation country, Malawi. Three parallel simulations took place in three separate rooms, with each room reaching a different conclusion on the use of the $200 million that donors were offering to improve Malawi’s health system.

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