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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.

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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

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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.

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Walking, cycling and using public transport: how the UK government offers to develop urban mobility

katerynatsybenko16 December 2020

Kateryna Tsybenko is an MPA candidate in Science, Engineering and Public Policy

Recently, the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Vladyslav Krykliy announced that Ukraine plans to replace all public transport with electric transport by 2030. It will take place within the framework of the implementation of the National Transport Strategy.

I currently study in the UK, and I researched the UK’s urban mobility strategy; and in this blog, I want to share urban mobility trends in this country. The key in it is the emphasis on inclusiveness, encouraging citizens to use public transport instead of individual transport, ride-sharing, walking and cycling, and broad support for all these means of transportation, including through open data.

Image of trams and bus

Anne Burgess / Integrated Public Transport

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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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