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Doing science advice well can enhance the soft power of a nation or city

arthurpetersen19 March 2021

The topic of ‘science advice’ – broadly defined here as practices involving individuals, organisations and structures that mobilise natural and social scientific and engineering knowledge into public decision-making – has been studied from many different angles in UCL STEaPP. Over the past seven years, UCL STEaPP has led two high-impact workshops and several research projects dedicated to charting the phenomenon, studying the activities, actors and institutions involved.

Entrance to Tottenham Court Road building

Tottenham Court Road, where one of the STEaPP workshops on science advice was held

A whole array of findings have been arrived at and summarised in this period, and I have dedicated an earlier blog nearly four years ago to what we can learn from our and others’ research for the capacities for dealing with complex and uncertain evidence. More recently, I addressed the interconnections between science, technology and ‘soft power’ – with the latter term referring to the ability to shape the preferences of others not through use of force or payments but by subtler means, which are often hard to pin down – giving the examples of how investments in water and space engineering are contributing to soft power for the Netherlands the United Arab Emirates, respectively.

In this blog, a few of the results that have been obtained are briefly reviewed, mainly with an eye to a new research angle that is of increasing interest to me and others in the department: How can doing science advice well, in a way that benefits societies, contribute to the soft power of a nation or city?

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Love Actually: Developing a pragmatic science policy agenda for 2021

jochataway7 January 2021

Love is all around

In 2019, UK politician, Rory Stewart, then running for Leadership of the UK Conservative Party, spoke regularly of love being at the core of his policy agenda. In a particularly memorable moment, during the launch of his campaign, he answered a question about how he was going to combat negativism towards transgender and ethnic minority people by saying ‘its about pride in each other…[its] about listening and, I’m afraid, its about love’.

heart shape in book

Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

I thought about that launch event moment often over 2020. The combined ravages of a Trump presidency and a terrible global pandemic have made a mockery of so many of things that seemed rational and certain. In the moment, Stewart’s claim that policy must be rooted in love and respect for ourselves and solidarity with each other in all our diversity, sounded so far from the norm, but increasingly it seems to me that pragmatic and convincing policy responses have a lot to do with love, listening and respect.

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Innovative interdepartmental collaborations are needed to foster better science policy and diplomacy interfaces and enable all the SDGs

j.c.mauduit8 December 2020

By Dr Luis Lacerda, Research Associate in Paediatric Neuroimaging at UCL Institute of Child Health & Dr Jean-Christophe Mauduit, Lecturer in Science Diplomacy, UCL Department of Science Technology Engineering and Public Policy

As a global university, UCL is leading the way in exploring how universities can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it recently demonstrated in its two-week virtual conference organised by UCL Grand Challenges and the Global Engagement Office. Helping realise the SDGs will benefit from the university’s most relevant expertise on each particular goal and enhance translational research, but will also enable more cross-disciplinary research within our diverse community, with the aim to spark collaborations ‘beyond boundaries’.

Programs like the Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement spearheaded by UCL Public Policy or like the Policy Impact Unit of UCL STEaPP are essential in helping researchers better understand the policy landscape, develop the necessary skills to engage with it more effectively, and work hand in hand with policymakers to develop more evidence-informed public policies based on their research. However, policy impact is not necessarily topic-specific. Indeed, there are many general science policy and diplomacy interfaces that are cross-cutting and relevant to all the SDGs, and they also deserve our attention. There are also many UCL researchers who are willing to engage and develop these interfaces beyond their particular research area.

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COVID-19: IoT and Cybersecurity

fredrikskippervold27 August 2020

Fredrik Johan Skippervold is a UCL MPA Graduate within Digital Technologies and Policy 18/19. He holds a Bachelor of Law with Spanish and is currently a researcher in the PETRAS National Centre of Excellence for IoT Systems Cybersecurity.

Introduction

Over the past four months (April – July) my colleague Dr Catherine Wheller and I have been following the impacts of COVID-19 on cybersecurity and the Internet of Things (IoT) within the UK and beyond. The pandemic has inspired a range of IoT innovations to help stop the spread of the virus. We have written weekly landscape briefings (LB) that provide up to date information on the latest developments in this area. In this blog I will talk about how we set about collecting information and how we put together these reports, as well as highlight some of the major developments which include discussions surrounding privacy and ethics. To note, a final summary briefing will be posted alongside this blogpost. The summary, which can be found here, includes a detailed timeline of events, provides an overview of how IoT devices are helping to stop the spread of the virus (UK and globally) and presents discussions around so-called ‘immunity passports’.

Cybersecurity

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The best intergovernmental platform that you’ve never heard of… until now

c.washbourne7 May 2019

Last week saw hundreds of people gather in Paris for what some have described as the ‘IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) for nature’.

The ‘Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’, or IPBES to its friends, works to produce knowledge on the state of nature and to support the development of skills and capacity to promote its sustainable use. As an independent, intergovernmental body, IPBES spends much of its time building the policy case for biodiversity and ecosystem services; helping policy-makers to make more informed decisions for a sustainable future.

So why, might you ask, have you never heard anything about IPBES? Good question!

I was privileged to attended the most recent plenary meeting of the platform ‘IPBES-7’, which took place last week in Paris, as part of the delegation of the Young Ecosystem Services Specialists (YESS), and can offer a few possible answers.

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