NRN Policy Engagement Workshop

21 June 2017, SSE Swalec, Cardiff


Confirmed speakers

Henry Burgess

Head of the NERC Arctic Office, Natural Environment Research Council

"Connecting science and policy: An Arctic perspective"

Watch the recording of this lecture here


More about Henry Burgess

Henry Burgess is the Head of the UK Arctic Office, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and hosted by the British Antarctic Survey. The Arctic Office supports UK research and British-based researchers in the high north; provides advice to policy makers and others in developing international collaborative programmes; and represents the UK in international Arctic research fora. The Office also manages the operation of the UK research station in Ny-Ålesund, as well as the NERC Arctic Research Programme. Prior to joining NERC, Henry was the Deputy Head of the Polar Regions Department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


“Connecting science and policy: An Arctic perspective”

The Arctic is one of the most rapidly changing regions on the planet. The consequences of human-induced climate change are being seen across the region in dramatic new ways. Are these challenges or opportunities? How should scientists and researchers in the UK respond and how should they convey their messages in ways that policy makers can understand and use? Some techniques work better than others, especially when policy makers are responding to problems over which they don’t have territorial or legal jurisdiction. What does it feel like to be a policy-maker faced with a wealth of data and arguments? How can we bring scientists and policy makers together in ways that preserve their independence and create positive outcomes?

Louise Edwards

Hub Manager, Academia Europaea Cardiff Knowledge Hub

“Policymaking in Europe: the new Scientific Advice Mechanism and the role played by Wales”

Watch the recording of this lecture here


More about Louise Edwards

Louise Edwards is the Manager of Academia Europaea Knowledge Hub Wales, hosted at Cardiff University.  She came to Cardiff in February 2016, following nine years in The Netherlands in senior international roles, first as Director of The European Library and then as Director of Professional Strategies at IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions).



“Policymaking in Europe: the new Scientific Advice Mechanism and the role played by Wales”

The new European Scientific Advice Mechanism (SAM) has been created to provide independent, interdisciplinary and evidence-based scientific advice on policy issues to the European Commission. 

Academia Europaea (AE), an international academy of nearly 4,000 world-leading scholars, is one of the key partners in a consortium of pan-European academies, funded under the Horizon 2020 programme to supply expert evidence and advice to the SAM.   The Wales Hub of Academia Europaea, hosted at Cardiff University, is responsible for delivering AE’s commitments in the project.

Louise Edwards will give a brief overview of the European Scientific Advice Mechanism, illustrating how it works in practice through several examples.  She will put a particular focus on the topic Food from the Oceans, which the Cardiff Hub is leading and in which experts from other Welsh universities are involved.  She will highlight some of the innovative approaches being taken to public engagement, which will foster exciting new connections between Wales and the rest of Europe in the context of science and policy.

Bridget Emmett

Head of Site, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology - Bangor

“Benefits of understanding and engaging with evidence needs: An academic’s perspective”

Watch the recording of this lecture here


More about Bridget Emmett

Bridget Emmett has 30 years of experience in environmental research. She works for NERC’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) as Head of Site at CEH Bangor and has responsibility as CEH’s Science Area Lead for Soil Research. Her personal research team specialises in soil function, climate change impacts, impacts of land management on natural capital and ecosystem services and data and modelling platforms, all with a focus on supporting policy development and decision making. Bridget is a member of the Science Advisory Council for Wales and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.


“Benefits of understanding and engaging with evidence needs: An academic’s perspective”

Two examples will be presented to illustrate how to both make research relevant for policy and how to better understand evidence needs. The first comes from Bridget's experience as the Specialist Adviser to the UK Parliamentary Inquiry on Soil Health. Which pieces of evidence and research were taken up and what determined that? What lessons are there from watching expert witnesses giving evidence to the Environment Audit Committee – which were the most influential and why? What pitfalls should we all avoid?

The second example comes from the recent scoping study to help Welsh Government identify options for a new Integrated Natural Resource Monitoring Framework for Wales. This identified a mismatch between current monitoring activities and the major change in legislation arising from the passing of the Well Being and Future Generations Act and the Environment Act (Wales) (and just before publishing the report - the implications of Brexit). How did we engage with the wide range of stakeholders in Wales? What worked and what didn’t? How complex is the policy space and how do we all engage with that whilst still finding time for our research?

Michael Weston

Operations Manager, UK Energy Research Centre

“Troubled waters? Building a bridge between academia and policy”

Watch the recording of this lecture here


More about Michael Weston

Mike Weston is UKERC’s Operations Manager, where he has responsibly for facilitating the successful engagement between UKERC researchers and the broader academic, industry and policy communities. He was previously Head of the Energy Research Group at the University of the Highlands and Islands which required the co-ordination, development and promotion of research assets across a large geographic region. 

Before this he held the post of Technology Manager for ITI Energy, an innovative Scottish Government project, tasked with accelerating innovation within the energy sector through targeted investment informed by rigorous technology and market assessment. His personal research interests in energy storage and the inter-operability of energy systems stem from his PhD work in Solid Oxide Fuel Cells at Imperial College and his early career at DERA/QinetiQ.

“Troubled waters? Building a bridge between academia and policy

It is generally agreed that gathering of evidence through various forms of consultation is vital for effective policymaking. Accordingly, the (perennial) challenges for civil servants gathering knowledge and evidence for policymaking are:

  1. It is unrealistic to expect all the subject expertise needed for effective policy to be available within the civil service.
  2. It is difficult to access the ‘quality’ of scientific or academic expertise available on any given topic within a given institution, consortium, or national research community.
  3. Globalisation and industry restructuring makes ‘national’ consultation and intelligence-gathering practices increasingly problematic.

UKERC’s work, in terms of supporting research-policy dialogue, has focused on clarifying what these issues look like from the government perspective, and then providing mechanisms to bridge more effectively between research and government policy. This has meant both providing more formal channels to subject expertise held within UK universities, but also access to the informal information networks that academics build to other researchers and to the private sector here and overseas. This presentation will discuss such bridging activities and how they interface with the evolving research landscape.


Graham Winter

Service Development Adviser, Research Service of the National Assembly for Wales

“How does research get into the National Assembly for Wales?”

Watch the recording of this lecture here


More about Graham Winter

Graham Winter is the Service Development Adviser for the Research Service of the National Assembly for Wales.  He has worked for the Assembly since November 2001 and prior to taking up this new role in April 2016, he was the Research Team Leader, responsible for a team briefing Assembly Members on a broad range of Environment & Transport policy issues.  Prior to joining the Assembly, Graham worked in Local Government in a variety of research-related jobs and also for the Office for National Statistics.  He was born and grew up in London but studied at Aberystwyth and Cardiff universities


“How does research get into the National Assembly for Wales?”

The National Assembly for Wales is the democratically elected body of 60 Assembly Members with three main roles: representing the interests of Wales and its people, making laws for Wales, and holding the Welsh Government to account through policy scrutiny. In fulfilling these roles, the Assembly is a big consumer of research and is always looking to make links with independent sources of expertise. 

The National Assembly for Wales Research Service provides impartial research and information to support Assembly Members and committees in fulfilling the scrutiny, legislative and representative functions of the Assembly.  It does this in three main ways: Operating an enquiry service; supporting the work of the Assembly’s committees and producing proactive outputs for Assembly Members.

Providing an effective Research Service requires access to research from academics, external organisations and individuals with knowledge and expertise in relevant subject areas. In his presentation, Graham will describe the work of the Research Service and explain how academics and others with expertise can engage with their work and feed into the support provided to Assembly Members. He will outline the academic engagement plan being developed, and describe some of the new initiatives being piloted. These include a Fellowship scheme and a series of ‘Exchanging Ideas’ seminars with invited experts presenting to Assembly Members.  We are also involved in the ‘Evidence Information Service’, which is an academic-led initiative that is seeking better ways to find expertise at short notices.