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

ucyow3c15 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?

ucyow3c2 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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Noreena Hertz: The Complexity of Decision-Making

ucyow3c29 January 2014

Noreena Hertz

Noreena Hertz

pencil-iconWritten by Nicholas Tyndale, Communications Director, Office of the UCL Vice-Provost (Research)

In her inaugural lecture, The Complexity of Decision-Making, UCL Honorary Professor Noreena Hertz discussed how to improve decision-making, manage information excess, assess the credibility of information and make the best use of advice.

Professor Hertz shared six insights from her latest book, Eyes Wide Open: How to make smart decisions in a confusing world, which draws on academic research and extensive interviews with “the smartest decision-makers”:

1. We need to take experts off their pedestals. We cede our decision-making power to experts too easily and uncritically, yet experts get a lot of decisions, judgements and predictions wrong. We need to understand our own cognitive biases (as should experts understand their own).

2. We need to become better information gatherers. There is valuable lay expertise and local knowledge that is too often untapped. Employees tend to make better predictions about their organisation than those in  management. Sources such as Google Trends and crowd-sourcing can provide a “truer narrative” – for example, about housing markets or pandemics – than official sources. Yet we should treat new sources of information with discretion.

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A widening European health divide…it’s enough to drive you to drink

news editor28 February 2012

Far from ‘closing the gap’ in life expectancy, health inequalities in Europe have deepened further. Drawing upon his forthcoming review of health inequalities in Europe, Michael Marmotargued that social inequalities, with their impact on life expectancy, should be at the top of the public agenda and we should place fairness at the heart of decision-making for health.

Integral to Marmot’s work is the graded relationship between social deprivation and a multitude of health outcomes. He reports that male life expectancy in the Russian Federation is 20 years less than in Iceland, but also highlights “huge differences within countries” and that “the gradient is increasing”.

Alcohol use: a cause or consequence of inequality?
What is driving the social gradient in health? Panel member Christopher Gerry stressed that “Alcohol matters”, and quoting Richard Peto said: “More than half of all deaths of people of working age in Russia are caused by alcohol.” But importantly, Gerry identified alcohol as just the proximate cause: “What makes people drink in the way that they do is the real question.”

Marmot was quick to distinguish between immediate causes and the underlying psychosocial mechanisms that drive unhealthy behaviours. In the case of Russia: “Some people are utterly convinced that alcohol plays a role, the main role” in health inequalities. But he disagreed, while acknowledging its role in violent deaths.

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