University of Nottingham joins partnership to improve academic-policy engagement

The University of Nottingham is part of a project that has been awarded £4m by Research England to explore ways of improving academic-policy engagement.

The 3-year Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement (CAPE) project will be led by UCL, in partnership with the Universities of Nottingham, Cambridge, Manchester and Northumbria, as well as Parliament, Government and policy organisations.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the need for reliable evidence which can inform public debate and policy has never been greater. With increasing pressure on public finances, it is also vital that local and central governments can be confident that their policy interventions will be effective and successful – and academic expertise has a crucial role to play in that process.

The CAPE project aims to foster and support academic engagement with policy professionals, and enable greater understanding and cooperation between universities, national government, parliament and regional and local authorities. CAPE is a partnership between UCL, the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester, and Nottingham, and Northumbria, with input and support from the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology, the Government Office for Science, the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and the Transforming Evidence hub.

Good policy has always needed good evidence, but there is remarkably little evidence for the best ways to link policymakers with researchers. I am delighted that the University of Nottingham will be part of this ground-breaking programme to identify what works and develop a more consistent, evidence-based approach. With the relationship between policy and evidence often leading the news, this work couldn’t be more urgent.

In addition to funding from Research England, partner institutions will be contributing further resource, bringing the total value of the project to nearly £10m. The project will support academic-policy engagement at scale and, crucially, the project will engage universities and policy stakeholders from across England. This will ensure a greater balance in the interests and expertise represented and ensure the project is addressing issues of policy beyond Westminster, to reflect the diversity of England’s communities.

The project will pilot a range of interventions to improve the quality of academic input into public policy, enabling universities to respond to emerging and pressing questions in an agile, targeted way. By working in partnership, it is hoped that both researchers and policy professionals will be able to connect experts in their field more quickly, and co-develop effective interventions based on reliable evidence.

Sarah Chaytor, UCL Director of Research Strategy and Policy and project co-lead added: “By addressing the existing barriers between universities and public policy organisations at a range of levels and working in close partnership across the project and with a wider network, we will be able to build our understanding of ‘what works’ in academic-policy engagement and how universities and policy stakeholders can work together to tackle national and regional policy problems.”

The project will develop a range of evidence-based tools and resources to support academic-policy engagement and establish a virtual Centre for Universities and Public Policy (CUPP) to provide a collaborative platform for networking and sharing knowledge.

David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England, said: “This project will make an important contribution to our emerging understanding of how universities can best support academics and researchers to engage with public policy and respond to the needs of policy stakeholders. We are particularly pleased to be supporting a consortium with widespread regional reach, which will help us to understand different geographical contexts and the important role that universities can play in and across regions as well as nationally.”

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