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.