X Close

UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy

Home

Applied in Focus. Global in Reach

Menu

Archive for the 'Research' Category

PhD Episode II: The Return of Ethnographic Methods

laurent.liote.1916 December 2021

Hi there, it’s been a while! I guess I’ve made some progress since the last time I wrote a post like this one. Rest assured the aim of my PhD has not changed, I’m still focused on understanding how engineering advice and related modelling insights are deployed in energy policy practice (the origin story can be found here). This post is about the initial work I’ve done to answer this question and where I’m going next.

In a UK government department not so far away…

So, what have I been up to in the last year then? Well, I did an initial case study with an engineering advice team within the UK government that provides advice on energy policy questions to the rest of their department. I interviewed engineers and policy advisors working together to gain insight into ‘the engineering-policy interface’ (a fancy way of saying ‘how engineers and policy advisors interact’). I turned the themes that emerged from the interviews into academic database search terms which returned four different strands of literature: science advice, engineering and philosophy, expertise in policy and models as boundary objects. I carried out a review of these fields and compared the literature’s conclusions against my findings, I call that ‘PhD Episode I’.

And what did I make of Episode I then? Like a first episode in what I hope to be a trilogy, it was interesting, set up the characters and storyline nicely but left quite a few questions unanswered. From what I saw, most of the engineering advice consisted of explaining a technology in layman’s terms to policy analysts, answering a question by providing a summary/diagram or designing/running a model. But that’s just scratching the surface and several findings warrant further investigation, constituting the basis for my second case study: Episode II.

(more…)

Tracking the spread of science with machine learning

Basil Mahfouz18 November 2021

On 3-5 November 2021, I joined research professionals from across the Network for Advancing and Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS) to discuss state of the art methods for evaluating the impact of research. Participants showcased institutional best practices, stakeholder engagement strategies, as well as how to leverage emerging data sources.  In this blog, I reflect on the conversations initiated at the conference, drawing upon insights gained throughout my research at STEaPP.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

(more…)

Proposal for a ‘Net Zero What Works Centre’

Siobhan Pipa29 October 2021

From Professor Jeremy Watson CBE FREng

The legal requirement for the UK to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 presents society with a wide-ranging and demanding set of challenges whose solutions require holistic and cohesive systems thinking across all sectors of activity. Social, technical, political and policy considerations must be taken together and solutions evolved that are driven by need, and which are applicable and acceptable for the whole of UK society. The November 2021 COP 26 meeting to be hosted by the UK, throws all this into sharp focus and suggests that government will wish to clearly demonstrate methods and pathways by which the 2050 objectives can be achieved. A Net Zero What Works Centre (NZWWC) may be an innovative and effective approach to accelerating and focusing coherent action.

Photo by Thomas Richter on Unsplash

(more…)

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?

(more…)

Science funding for crisis response and long-term resilience

c.washbourne5 February 2021

By Carla-Leanne Washbourne, Julius Mugwagwa, Remy Twiringiyimana and Anne-Marie Kagwesage

As we enter the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries are still struggling to cope with ongoing and evolving challenges brought by the virus. Governments are actively responding, day to day, with new or improved guidance for their population, based on the most up to date understanding of the pandemic, drawing on cutting edge insights from a range of different research fields.

Medic in covid testing centre

“COVID-19 testing” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the shadow of this evolving crisis, the line between short term response and long-term sustained management has become more and more blurred. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbated by, runs in parallel to, and draws focus from many other critical and long-term social and environmental issues, including demographic shifts, urbanisation and the climate and extinction crises. Institutions tasked with supporting national systems of science and innovation have a huge role to play in the response to all of these challenges. For them, the pandemic presents both a great opportunity to generate and communicate technical insights, which could have real and immediate societal impact, and a challenge in allocating and mobilising resources to ensure a balance of short-term responsive issues and longer term developmental and strategic goals are being met.

(more…)