Employers, industry and higher education institutions specifically, have a much more powerful voice than individual scientists. By lobbying MPs and making science and engineering issues known to policy makers, they can make a difference quickly and effectively.
The University Perspective
Sarah Chaytor from UCL’s Public Policy department explains why universities must engage with research policy
There is a clear incentive for universities to be involved in research policy because to do otherwise risks detrimental impacts on, for example, research funding, strategic planning, doctoral education and many other issues.
Given that they undertake the majority of research in the UK, universities are best placed to understand the key challenges for research policy and to offer valuable insights (particularly since they employ intelligent people who are passionate about research). Energetic debate in recent years over issues such as research assessment, impact and the research budget illustrates the importance universities attach to helping to influence policy.
At UCL, we engage with government, funders and other research organisations because research policy matters, to us and to the broader sector. Benefiting from public funding means we have a responsibility to participate constructively in policy debates to try to achieve the optimal outcome for the research base.
UCL is also implementing a broader public policy strategy which seeks to ensure that our research is informing all areas and dimensions of public policy. This reflects a belief that, as hubs of knowledge and expertise, universities can make an important and unique contribution to public policy by providing high-quality, rigorous research and evidence to help policymakers to make informed decisions – and, indeed, to highlight the importance of the evidence base to policymaking.
There are a number of useful actions that universities can take to engage with research policy specifically, such as making submissions to Select Committee inquiries and responding to Government and funding body consultations. It’s also important to develop clear institutional positions on key aspects of research policy and use communications resources effectively to promote these. Additionally, individual researchers can play an important role – for example, the Science is Vital campaign to protect the science and research budget was initiated by a UCL researcher. Perhaps most importantly, universities must maintain dialogue and lines of communication with policymakers.
There is a symbiotic relationship in which universities benefit from (sound) research policy and research policy benefits from the input of universities. UK research is a success story; it’s vital that we work together to develop the policies that will build on that success.