Westminster Higher Education Forum

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

December 2020


Price: £95 PLUS VAT
Format: DOWNLOADABLE PDF


***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 is bringing stakeholders together with key policy officials who have taken a particular interest in this conference and are due to attend from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; DAERA, NI; DCMS; Defra; DfE; DfT; the Government Office for Science; the HSE; HMRC; HMCTS; Home Office; the IPO; MHCLG; MoJ; the NAO; the NIC; the ORR; the Office of Science & Technology; UKRI; the UK Space Agency; The Scottish Government; the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales; the Welsh Revenue Authority; and the Welsh Government.


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 political discord affecting public perceptions and adherence to policy guidelines, disruption to education, pressure on mental health and family life, severe economic disruption, and increases in inequalities
  • ‘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
  • UKRI and the US to collaborate on research commercialisation - MoU between UKRI and the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) on cooperation in research, knowledge exchange and commercialisation, I areas such as such as quantum computing, AI, and advanced manufacturing
  • 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
    • The use of emerging technologies for regulation - the best practice report on outlining the practical considerations for the application of emerging technology in regulation
  • UK aid to tackle global spread of coronavirus ‘fake news’ - 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
    • Pandemic fatigue - Reinvigorating the public to prevent COVID-19 - the World Health Organisation raising questions over how to reinvigorate public support during the pandemic
    • A right to care: the social foundations of recovery from COVID-19 - the LSE report urging the use of comprehensive population data to inform policy on social behaviour
  • 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
  • The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) - aiming to implement an evidence-based approach to inform local and national responses to COVID-19 outbreaks and forming a part of the newly created National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP)

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
  • The realities of actually using evidence and expertise to inform policy

Policy officials attending:


Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology, and officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; DAERA, NI; DCMS; Defra; the Department for Education; the Department for Transport; the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; the Government Office for Science; the Health and Safety Executive; HMRC; HMCTS; the Home Office; the Intellectual Property Office; Migration Advisory Committee Secretariat; the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government; the Ministry of Justice; the National Audit Office; the National Infrastructure Commission; the National Crime Agency; the Office of Rail and Road; the Office for Civil Society; the Office of Science & Technology; Office for National Statistics; UKRI; the UK Space Agency; the Department of Health NI; the Department for the Economy NI; the Northern Ireland Office; The Scottish Government; the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales; the Welsh Revenue Authority; and the Welsh Government.


Overall, we expect speakers and other delegates to be an informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials from across Whitehall, together with university leaders, regulators, local authorities, research funders, charities, learned societies, professional bodies, businesses, policy institutes, consultancies, LEPs, reporters from the national and specialist media, and individual academics with a particular interest in the discussion.


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



This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles