The importance of knowledge exchange in political engagement

The importance of knowledge exchange in political engagement

Given the political discourse arising from last year’s referendum result for the UK to leave the European Union, members of the scientific community have rallied to showcase the importance of a thriving research base to the UK. Organisations such as the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) have looked to play a leading role in engaging policymakers and parliamentarians, representing the views of the community within a policy context. CaSE is an independent membership organisation, of which Babraham is one, working to ensure that the UK has the skills, funding and policies to enable science and engineering to thrive. Engagement with research institutes, and researchers, is pivotal in informing our positions in work with policymakers on their behalf. CaSE’s recent visit to the Babraham Institute presented a great opportunity for Knowledge Exchange, deepening the relationship and understanding between our organisations.

Our day on site gave us the opportunity to connect with the work being carried out on the Babraham Research Campus. And we shared some of the latest developments on Brexit and science with members of the Knowledge Exchange and Commercialisation (KEC) committee, Linden Fradet, Dr Simon Cook and Dr Peter Rugg-Gunn. The meeting also provided an invaluable insight into the challenges facing the Babraham Institute, points of view that CaSE can factor in to future discussions with policymakers. A tour of the fabulous laboratorys and animal research facility on the campus was next, a part of the day which made us jealous that we are no longer researchers! It was fantastic to not only see some of the ground-breaking research being carried out at the Institute, but also the sustainable and considered nature of the work being conducted in the animal research facility.

Over lunch, our director Dr Sarah Main gave a talk as part of the Institute’s ‘360 Science’ series.  360 science is designed with early career researchers in mind, presenting knowledge exchange opportunities and introducing researchers to alternative careers in science.  Sarah’s talk covered the voice of science in policymaking and provided a sense of CaSE’s vision and priority work areas, as well as some of the subtleties and complexities of politics and how science can be best heard in policymaking. A Q&A session gave the opportunity for scientists and staff across the Institute to ask a number of questions, from career progression to the latest news on Brexit. We were then able to meet with one of the campus companies, Phoremost, to discuss some of their priorities of start-ups and SME’s and the steps that the Government could take to incentivise business development and growth in the UK. To round off the day – our final engagement in KE! – we heard about some of the projects that the Institute is coordinating thanks to international grant money.

CaSE and Babraham have enjoyed a strong partnership over the last couple of years, and the Institute is also helping to provide funding to support an additional staff member at CaSE to increase our capacity over the next two years. CaSE consulted with Babraham in responding to the House of Lords Science & Technology committee’s inquiry into Life Sciences and Industrial Strategy, while representatives of the Institute have attended CaSE workshops, including a recent event Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive Designate of UKRI. The strength of CaSE’s voice comes from the engagement with our member organisations, including those researchers and staff who are carrying out research on a daily basis. This is also the reason why CaSE enjoys a strong relationship with policymakers and the government, as they know that we’ve listened to the concerns of the sector. This is where the elements of knowledge exchange greatly benefit CaSE, and the more members that are willing to engage with us directly, the stronger our message and the greater our impact on your behalf.
 
Author: James Tooze, Policy Officer at the Campaign for Science and Engineering