The Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance spoke at the launch of The Forum, Imperial’s new policy engagement programme.
At the event, Sir Patrick Vallance addressed an audience of guests from academia, Whitehall, Westminster and industry at Imperial as part of a Q&A session focussing on the importance of collaboration between academia and policy-makers.
Facilitated by professor Mary Ryan, Vice-Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Engineering, discussion explored a range of issues, including his priorities as Chief Scientific Adviser, research funding, how to influence government, and the impact of Brexit and the next Prime Minister on science and research.
The Forum connects policy-makers with Imperial researchers working in subject areas relevant to their work. This allows the latest research to be shared in support of evidence-based policy development.
We must make sure we translate our world class science into innovation and societal benefit Sir Patrick Vallance Government Chief Scientific Adviser
Sir Patrick, whose role is to give advice to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on all aspects of science and ensure policy is embedded in evidence, gave The Forum his backing, saying that the programme can “make access to science much easier from our side”.
“We must make sure we translate our world class science into innovation and societal benefit,” he told the packed-out lecture theatre.
He went on to encourage Imperial researchers to look at government departments’ Areas of Research Interest, documents that set out the most important research questions facing each department.
Amongst other issues, climate change was a key part of the discussion.
Answering a question about the importance of the role of scientists in ensuring the UK meets its climate targets, Sir Patrick emphasised that they are “absolutely essential”.
“Net zero is absolutely on the Government’s agenda”, said Sir Patrick, alluding to the Government’s historic plans to end UK carbon emissions by 2050, announced at Imperial with Prime Minister Theresa May visiting the College’s Carbon Capture Pilot Plant.
Following the Q&A, Sir Patrick was joined by Professor Nick Jennings, Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), who spoke about his vision of introducing a policy engagement programme at Imperial when he joined the College.
“One of the things I really wanted to do was to make sure that Imperial was able to take the talents and excellence of the research we do and really make an impact,” Professor Jennings told the attendees.
“The Forum really is very effective,” Professor Jennings said. “We take a group of senior civil servants and a particular topic, and we discuss it with a group of our academics. We’ve covered issues from artificial intelligence to vaccines.” Both of these topics have been written up as feature articles, available to read online.
In its first year, The Forum has already been successful in connecting our staff and students with policy-makers. This has been achieved through our series of:
- Workshops, which allow researchers to discuss their latest findings with policy makers, partners from industry and the third sector. 8 workshops were run this year, covering some of the most pressing global issues of today, from food and nutrition, to AI and the jobs of the future.
- Training sessions, which encourage and support Imperial researchers to effectively engage with and understand public policy.