Deciding policy is not a linear process and scientific advice is only one piece in the policy making puzzle, a panel of experts agreed at a recent PolicyNet event at the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The event, organised in partnership with UCL’s new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) was held to discuss the skills needed to give scientific expertise more influence and prominence in policy formulation and to find a balance between the needs of science, engineering and government.

The panel of speakers included:

  • Dr Jason Blackstock, Acting Head of Department, Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy, UCL
  • Andrew Crudgington, Director, External Affairs and Strategy, Institution of Civil Engineers
  • Giles Robertson, Private Secretary to Professor Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Advisor
  • Professor Lord Robert Winston Hon FREng FMedSci, Vice-chairman, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Panellists discussed the following question:

“What do you think is the single most important thing a scientist, engineer or policy professional should learn to help them successfully bring knowledge, evidence and expertise to policy?”

Both panellists and the audience had varied and diverse answers to the issue, the most prevalent being that effective communication is key when it comes to presenting a message to the government. Scientists and engineers must consider the timing of their contributions and the other factors involved in the creation of policy and understand their audience when giving scientific advice.

In fact, societal factors and values will also need to be taken into account, which may conflict with hard scientific evidence; therefore scientists and engineers must understand that their contribution will ultimately be only a partial rather than definitive component to government thinking.

UCL’S STEaPP is currently developing a range of education programmes around science, technology, engineering and public policy, including a Masters in Public Administration for both sides of the policy making spectrum.

Further information on the UCL website

Notes for Editors

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.
  1. PolicyNet is a network of policy advisors who either represent or are interested in the science and engineering fields. It meets quarterly, generally over lunch, to discuss a range of issues that relate to this important area of policy.  


For more information please contact:

Katherine MacGregor 
Tel: 020 7766 0623
Email:  Katherine MacGregor