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Engaging with policy means changing how we do research

The policy world holds great opportunities for academics and their institutions, but also challenges how they work, say Joanna Chataway and Madeline Carr.

The combination of political turmoil and rapid technological change means that science and technology policymaking has never been more complex and uncertain. Future economies, social wellbeing, critical infrastructure and even human rights are now increasingly seen to rely on government decisions about how and when to direct scientific and technological developments.

Faced with the need to engage with the increased complexity and scope of policy advice, some universities have sought new models for initiatives and departments beyond traditional university structures. University College London’s department of science, technology, engineering and public policy is one such model. Set up in 2013, STEaPP is an academic science and innovation policy department with ambitions to bridge technical expertise, evidence and public policy; Joanna Chataway took over as its head in late 2018.

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