Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Evidence-based policymaking - next steps for academic and industry research in policy development

Morning, Friday, 4th December 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will discuss next steps for evidence-based policymaking, focusing on the way forward for strengthening partnerships between policymakers and businesses, universities and the wider research community.

The discussion at a glance:

  • the evidenced-based policy process - strategies for ensuring rigour, maximising productivity, and strengthening the collaborative relationships between policymakers and expert advisors in higher education, industry and other organisations
  • COVID-19 - what can be learned from the role of scientific evidence in the Government’s response to the pandemic:
    • advisors and consultative processes - the individuals, groups and areas of expertise that contributed and how they were involved
    • policy outcomes - the choice of actions taken following advice and their effectiveness
    • knock-on effects -  anticipating and responding to issues such as disruption to education, pressure on mental health and family life, and severe economic disruption
  • ‘fake news’ - mitigating the impact of conspiracy theories and disinformation, in relation to the pandemic and other developments such as 5G
  • public engagement - what is needed to counter disinformation and build public trust in the use of data and evidence in policymaking
  • policymaker engagement - priorities for improving scientific literacy in government, and managing tensions between evidence and political priorities
  • innovation - how to ensure that policy decision-making can harness latest developments in technology, science and analytic techniques, including the use of behavioural science and data

A scan of relevant developments:

  • The UK's best research to feature more strongly in policy-making - new fellowships in the form of partnerships between ESRC, UKRI and the Government Office for Science that aim to facilitate effective collaboration between researchers and policymakers
  • the Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) - introduced by Research England, which aims to improve knowledge exchange in higher education and the efficiency of public funding in this area
  • key Government strategies and roadmaps:
    • the National Data Strategy (NDS) from DCMS - aimed at supporting the development of the UK’s data economy and work to ensure public trust in data use
    • the UK Research and Development Roadmap - setting out the Government’s vision for science, research and innovation
    • the Industrial Strategy - with Grand Challenges aimed at securing the UK’s position at the forefront of societal and scientific advances, and resulting in public and economic benefits
    • the Government Technology Innovation Strategy - aiming to improve the use of emerging technologies to build public services
    • the Online Harms White Paper - setting out plans for combatting online disinformation
  • UK aid to tackle global spread of coronavirus ‘fake news’ - funded through DFID, as well as the Counter Disinformation Cell and The Rapid Response Unit and other government initiatives tasked with tackling specific incidents of the spread of false narratives
  • behavioural science - playing a central part in the response to the pandemic, with fears over potential ‘behavioural fatigue’ following the introduction of lockdown
  • data - with significant interest in its use in policymaking and its role in implementing societal improvements - with data and AI having been central to the Industrial Strategy, and the basis of predictions and briefings on the spread of the pandemic

Key areas for discussion:

Evidence-based policymaking today

  • progress and next steps - fostering engagement and co-operation between academics and policymakers, and the way forward for improving collaboration
  • Areas of Research Interest (ARI) fellowships - priorities for the collaboration between ESRC, UKRI and the Government Office for Science,
  • the UK Research and Development Roadmap - assessing the Roadmap’s core plans for the development and delivery of evidence-based policy, such as plans to:
    • invest in research and applying research to solve pressing problems in government and across society
    • deliver strong local economic benefit and improve quality of life outcomes from R&D
    • strengthen international partnerships to ensure that the UK continues to attract new research talent from abroad
  • the Knowledge Exchange Framework - its potential, and that of other higher education frameworks to improve dialogue between HEIs, businesses and policymakers and to build a more seamless transfer, implementation and take-up of scientific insight from universities to the rest of society

COVID-19 - evidence-based policymaking in exceptional and complicated circumstances

  • what can be learned - the experience of applying evidence-based policymaking during the pandemic and through the Brexit process and the short- and long-term and knock-on effects of decisions
  • behavioural science - its role and future use in policymaking, along with an examination of other specialist fields of expertise
  • countering disinformation - what strategies and initiatives will be needed to tackle fake news going forward, and what should be the involvement of social media industry and other key stakeholders
  • online harms - maximising the impact of proposals in the White Paper including new corporate duties of care, and Ofcom’s expected regulatory responsibilities
  • collaboration and coordination - the role of education and scientific literacy and the impact of digital poverty, priorities for tackling barriers such as language and societal divisions, and strategies for building a coherent, joined-up response to the challenges and improving the delivery of evidence-based policy

Using data-driven evidence in policy

  • the forthcoming National Data Strategy - what should be included to help realise it aims of fostering trust from businesses, organisations and the public in the potential of data in decision making and to ensure the dissemination of skills and knowledge throughout society to make effectively use of it
  • trust and effectiveness - fostering greater transparency in data use, and improving public trust in decision-making and the use of data-driven evidence in supporting it
  • delivery of social services - options for creating an integrated system for the translation of scientific insight into effective social policy and for informing best practice in the delivery of social services

The agenda:

  • The state of play for evidence-based policymaking - current challenges and next steps
  • Strategies for improving engagement and co-operation between academia, business and policymakers
  • Challenges in delivering evidence-based policymaking during exceptional circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Behavioural science in policymaking - the nudge theory, behavioural fatigue, and factors determining future use
    • Policy and competing demands - public health and the economy, and short-term, long-term and knock-on effects
  • Improving the acceptance of evidence-based policy - education and scientific literacy, digital poverty and the spread of disinformation, and guarding against the deepening of societal divisions
  • The use of data in policymaking - clarifying needs, finding what works, and strategies for creating an integrated system
    • Improving the delivery of social services
    • Use of data modelling in policymaking
  • Policy priorities for supporting evidence-based policymaking

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It is certainly the case with this conference. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from BEIS; DAERA, NI; DCMS; Defra; the Department for Education; Government Office for Science; HMRC; HMCTS; the Home Office; Intellectual Property Office; the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government; the Ministry of Justice; the National Infrastructure Commission; the Office of Rail and Road; UKRI; The Scottish Government; the Welsh Revenue Authority; and the Welsh Government. Also due to attend are representatives from BT; Ofgem; University of St Andrews; University of Leeds and University of Southampton.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Dr Grant Hill-Cawthorne

Head, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Senior speaker confirmed from Open Innovation Team, Cabinet Office


Debbie Abrahams MP


Dr David Halpern

Chief Executive Officer, The Behavioural Insights Team

Dr Joe Marshall

Chief Executive Officer, National Centre for Universities and Business

Dr Kathryn Oliver

Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Dr Federica Angeli

Professor in Management, Chair in Management, York Management School, University of York

Dr Rasmus Nielsen

Professor of Political Communication and Director, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford

Helen Milner

Chief Executive Officer, Good Things Foundation

Dr Stuart Thomson

Head of Public Affairs, BDB Pitmans