By Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs of the Science Museum, member of the Royal Society’s Science Policy Advisory Group.
To tackle climate change, ecosystem destruction and the many daunting issues facing humanity we need not only to draw on science and engineering but also develop policies that can change the behaviour of 7.5 billion people.
That means we need ways to evaluate which policies work and which don’t, and figure out how to hone them. However, there is still some way to go to make our existing institutional machinery fit for purpose, according to a far-ranging discussion on Policy Evaluation for a Complex World I chaired this month, at St Martin’s in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, for the Centre for the Evaluation of Complexity Across the Nexus (CECAN).
After a deeply divisive campaign, UK voters have opted by a small majority to leave the European Union. Environmentalists are accustomed to most policy being made jointly with the EU. The shock result flips that assumption completely on its head. The referendum process may be over, but the hard political debate over policy starts now.
What can academics learn from how civil society organisations and NGOs approach policy impact? Julia Himmrich argues that academics have a lot to gain from embracing the practices of long-term advocacy. Advocacy is about establishing relationships and creating a community of experts both in and outside of government who can give informed input on policies. Being more aware of the political aspects of research can help academics understand and re-evaluate their own arguments about the impact of research.
This piece is based on an article written for the Dahrendorf Forum at LSE IDEAS.