Workshops for Universities: A day at Durham University

Today, Newton’s Apple gave a workshop for staff and students at Durham University. In addition to the open workshops in Westminster, we regularly run workshops that are commissioned by Universities. Every so often, it is good to capture the action. This blog post contains some of the highlights in pictures.

2014-07-17 09.34.25

Our Chairman, Dr Michael Elves, giving an overview of science policy processes.

2014-07-17 10.05.20

Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, giving and overview of Science in Parliament. This included some fascinating insights into the work of Select Committees.

2014-07-17 10.47.18

Chris DarbyHead of Energy and Earth Resources, Government Office for Science, explaining the complex web of Government Departments that use scientific evidence.

2014-07-17 16.31.57

The panel debate in full swing, including insights on the importance of learned societies and professional bodies from Dr Stephen Benn and a special case study from Dr Ian Gibson on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (2008).

Read more about Newton’s Apple workshops for Universities here.

One thousand participants going forward into 2014

ElvesOur December workshop in the Palace of Westminster was a landmark event for the Newton’s Apple Foundation. It saw the 1,000th workshop participant since they were started four years ago.

These events continue to be very much in demand with the target audience – PhD Students and Post docs – a significant number (25-30%) of whom now say that they are looking for careers in the Civil Service or other policy areas. After our January Workshop, and the one we will be running with UCL in February, we are still likely to have a waiting list of about 40 for a London Workshop.

Many thanks to those of you who have contributed to our workshops over these past four years and ensured their success.

Best wishes for a successful 2014.

Dr Michael Elves, Newton’s Apple Foundation Chairman

 

Producing Scientists for Society

Dr Michael W. Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple Foundation
Dr Michael W. Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple Foundation
Dr Ian Gibson, President, Newton’s Apple Foundation
Dr Ian Gibson, President, Newton’s Apple Foundation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a recent article in the Observer newspaper article Will Hutton has set the alarm bells ringing regarding the importance of postgraduate training in our Universities, and the likely impact upon it of accrued student debt. He points to the decline in the numbers of English graduates going onto study at postgraduate level.  We share this worry, but are also concerned about whether the current provision of Doctoral training and training in the early postdoctoral research appointments, particularly in the sciences and engineering, take into account sufficiently the need to prepare the postgraduate for future employment.  It has been pointed out, that with the present squeeze on university finances and research funding, only one in ten postdocs can now expect to find careers in the academic system as a senior Principle Investigator (PI). Something achieved only after years of acting as research assistants to their supervisors and supported by grant-dependant fellowships, and the like. In the future therefore much postdoctoral employment for scientists and engineers is likely to be in fields other than that for which their training, as currently carried out, prepares them.

In our 21st Century Society there is, and will continue to be, a great need for a better understanding of where, and how, science and technology fit into the cultural and industrial life of the nation.   Furthermore the research community will need to become more active in providing advice, or comment, to government where proposed new policies involve new knowledge that their research gives them access to. Therefore for those that stay in the research arena we feel that there must be some preparation as part of their postgraduate training for this aspect of the scientist or engineer’s role in Society. In the rather narrow nature of current postgraduate, and even more so, postdoctoral training these young people deserve better than they are getting.

In the twenty first century our lives are being affected, for better or for worse, by developments in science, technology and engineering, or rely on these disciplines to meet present and future threats. Thus, for example, one may think of genetic modification to improve production of crops to feed an ever increasing world population; of developments in stem-cell biology offering better understanding of diseases and new treatments for otherwise serious and intractable medical conditions; of better understanding of embryology and its increasing contribution to reproductive medicine; and, of course, the response to climate change which is of concern from many different directions.  Yet there is often an apparent disconnect between our policy-makers in Government and Parliament,  on the one hand,  and the scientific and engineering communities on the other. This needs to be corrected.  There would be much to be gained for the nation if these two elements of our public life could be brought closer together to create some better more joined-up thinking.   So where should we start?

First perhaps at the laboratory bench.  Today the imperative, as far as research funding is concerned, is for our universities to focus on achieving “high research ratings” through their publications in premier league journals in order to attract greater levels of funding.  This is of course not in itself a bad objective except that, in the process, development of the future careers of the PhD students and Postdocs, and therefore the long term health of the UK’s broader “science base,” receives scant attention.  This is despite the fact that there are insufficient career posts in academia, as highlighted above, or in industrial research for them to fill.  Many postgraduates and postdocs will inevitably therefore need to seek to deploy their skills in fields other than research. Because of this we believe that that there should be a widening of their training experience from merely focussing on the pursuit of the supervisors research, and the generation of point-scoring research papers for publication, to fitting them for roles as scientists outside of mainstream research.

Postdocs should be encouraged to think about other broader matters including how their scientific knowledge and understanding may have wider application in Society. They should be encouraged to see the relevance, political consequences and wider applicability of science and technology in general, and the relevance of their science in particular, to wider national policy issues.  In particular, they should be making contributions by being proactive in providing understandable explanations of their science to Government ministers, MPs, and those arts – and humanities – based senior civil servants who ultimately make the policy decisions.

It would also be of enormous benefit if the applicability of the concepts behind the “scientific method” to other areas of life, and in particular the making and evaluation of policy, could be more widely appreciated. It is important that there should be a correct understanding by our policy-makers of the nature of scientific evidence.  There needs to be an understanding that in many areas the published research is rarely black or white, and that there are still areas of enormous uncertainty and debate even among the experts.  We can think, for example of the research in the areas of climate change, of the impact of insecticides on ee and other pollinator health the role of badgers in the spread of bovine TB.  At best what the policy-makers have available is a consensus which may be based on many different views, rather than on a sound understanding of the science behind the area.  The scientist therefore has a role in interpreting this evidence for them, and bringing some perspective, particularly in areas where there is a significant body of evidence pointing in a different direction.  We suggest therefore that, as an essential ingredient of their training during their postgraduate and Postdoctoral  years, these young researchers should be learn something of the way that policy is made and assessed – and the routes through which they may provide information and advice to the policy makers.

It was to make some contribution to bridging that serious gap between the science and engineering community, on the one hand, and the processes whereby policy is made on the other, that the Newton’s Apple Foundation was established. Over the last four years our organisation has run workshops in some universities, in Westminster and elsewhere to introduce young researchers to the world of policy-making. Through these workshops postgraduate students and post-doctoral researchers are brought into contact with politicians and civil servants, and others involved in policy-making. The main objective of the Foundation being to help the participants to understand that they can also have a part to play in the policy making processes. They are shown how they can help Government and Parliament to understand the scientific and engineering issues involved in policies being considered, or under development. Importantly, they are also given some positive examples of where scientists, often, but not exclusively, working through their learned Societies, have influenced policy thinking. For example the influence they had on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, the control of light pollution and bringing about the reconsideration of an EU directive which would have had the effect of preventing the use of MRI scanners throughout Europe.  Over this four years approaching 1,000 students have been taken part in these workshops, and the demand for them is increasing.

The feedback received from workshop participants has shown, firstly, that the great majority of the postgrads and postdocs come to the workshops quite unaware of how policy is made. Secondly, as a result of their attendance they feel that their knowledge of the policy-making processes has been significantly improved, and the workshops do awaken their interest in, and appreciation of, the importance of scientific and technological evidence and advice in policy-making. It is quite evident from the feedback that these young researchers do want to understand the workings of the policy makers, and become involved and make their own contribution where relevant.  Some are even beginning to think about creating their future careers in these areas rather than in pure research.  However what Newton’s Apple is doing is but a start to the process of widening the interests of our young researchers, and awakening an interest in the application of their scientific expertise to areas of Society other than pure research.

We suggest therefore that it is time that the value of PhD and Postdoc training needs to be recognised as a way of preparing scientists and technologists for careers outside the purely academic.  What is now needed is the investment in the provision of wider training and experience for these young people in order to open up for them the vista of other areas of useful employment, outside the University and research environment.  As an integral part of their training these young researchers should be made aware of, and even given exposure to, other career options. In areas such as, for example, in industrial research, in development and management, in the civil service – scientific or policy making branches, and even as scientists working in quite non-scientific roles in businesses and the professions.  They can be the bringers of the scientific ways of thinking to other areas of analysis and decision making. In short they should be helped to understand where science and technology fit into the cultural and industrial life of the nation, and where they will find a useful role in which there knowledge and experience will be valued.

Finally there is the question of how many PhDs are being trained in our Universities, and serious the mismatch with the number of established posts in academia, where ambitions their usually lie, for them to fill.

Although the Newton’s Apple Workshops are making a real contribution to widening the students’ knowledge, and awakening an interest in those who attend, they inevitably can only scrape the surface. There should therefore be a wider availability of training of this sort as an integral part of the postgraduate scientist or engineer’s training whilst in Higher Education.

Dr Michael W. Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple Foundation (contact)

Dr Ian Gibson, President, Newton’s Apple Foundation (contact)

Read more about this on the Guardian Higher Education blog: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/nov/04/science-in-society-policy-research

December Westminster Workshop

NEWTON’S APPLE FOUNDATION

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

12th December 2013
Committee Room 10,

House of Commons, Westminster, 15.30-18.00

  • Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?
  • Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

Workshop Structure;

The maximum group size is 30 and workshops run for 2 hours.  The workshop entails;

An introduction to Science Policy – Presentation by Dr Michael Elves, Chairman of Newton’s Apple, former Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee; includes booklets explaining the field of Science Policy and how Policy is made.

  • Science in Parliament – Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee
  • Science in GovernmentSarah Haywood,  Deputy Director, Europe and Participation Policy, Labour Markets Directorate, BIS
  • The Role of the Learned Societies:  Connecting with Policy; from research to the    real world – Dr Beth Taylor, Director of Communications & External Relations, Institute of Physics.

The guest panellists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists and engineers can communicate their research to policy makers.

Discussion; Participants will have the opportunity to pose their questions to the panellists on science and engineering policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

This is a free Workshop. Applications or should be made on by downloading and completing the application form as soon as possible.

 

Introduction to Science Policy workshops for winter 2013-14

NEWTON’S APPLE

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

  • Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?
  • Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

There are a number of workshops coming up:

  • November 8th 2013- Institute for Cancer Research, Sutton
  • November 12th 2013- University of Reading.
  • December 12th 2013 – Palace of Westminster*
  • January 15th 2014 – Palace of Westminster*
  • February 17th 2014 – University College London

The Westminster workshops are open to any scientists interested in learning more about science policy. If you wish to attend, please download and complete the application form.

For more information on the format and content of the workshops, please see our workshops page.

February workshop in Westminster

NEWTON’S APPLE

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

28th February 2013
Committee Room 11,

House of Commons, Westminster, 15.45-18.00

  • Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?
  • Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

Workshop Structure;

The maximum group size is 30 and workshops run for 2 hours.  The workshop entails;

  • An introduction to Science Policy – Presentation by Dr Michael Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple Foundation; includes booklets explaining the field of Science Policy and how Policy is made.
  • Science in Parliament – Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee
  • Science in GovernmentChris Fleming , Head of Research Community Issues, Government Office for Science
  • The Role of the Learned Societies: Connecting with Policy; from research to the real world – Katharine Richardson,Head of Communications and Membership, British Pharmacological Society

The guest panellists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists and engineers can communicate their research to policy makers.

Discussion; Participants will have the opportunity to pose their questions to the panellists on science and engineering policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

This is a free Workshop

Please Note: This Workshop is fully booked

January workshop in Parliament

NEWTON’S APPLE

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

16th January  2013
Committee Room  9,

House of Commons, Westminster, 16.00-18.00

Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?

Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?

Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

Workshop Structure;

The maximum group size is 30 and workshops run for 2 hours.  The workshop entails;

  • An introduction to Science Policy – Presentation by Dr Monica Darnborough, Trustee, Newton’s Apple and Formerly Director of Biotechnology, Department of Trade and Industry, and a former civil servant in the Cabinet Office.; includes booklets explaining the field of Science Policy and how Policy is made.
  • Science in Parliament  –   Dr Julian Huppert MP, MP for Cambridge, Member of Home Affairs Select Committee
  • Science in GovernmentSarah Haywood, Deputy Director, Europe and Participation Policy, Labour Markets Directorate, BIS
  • The Role of the Learned Societies:  Connecting with Policy; from research to the real world – Dr Robert Massey, Deputy Executive Secretary and Press Officer, Royal Astronomical Society.

The guest panellists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists and engineers can communicate their research to policy makers.

Discussion; Participants will have the opportunity to pose their questions to the panellists on science and engineering policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

This is a free Workshop

Please Note: This Workshop is now fully booked

Newton’s Heirs Programme: The first four years of workshops (2008-2012)

“Newton’s Apple” is a non-partisan educational charity established with the objective of engendering mutual understanding between at scientists, policy-makers and politicians thereby enhancing evidence-based policy making in the UK.   Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) permeate our lives today and, as a nation, we face many challenges to which SET can offer solutions. For example in areas such as health, energy production, sustainable food production, transport and climate change.  It is important that regulation regarding new SET developments protects the public and our environment without impairing the application or effective exploitation of new developments. or prevent their effective exploitation.   It is essential that our policy-makers and legislators are sufficiently equipped to understand and evaluate the scientific evidence. They need to be “intelligent customers” for new SET opportunities. In turn the SET community must be able explain the scientific method to policy-makers and to communicate their science as advice in a clear and effective manner.

Many scientists are not well informed about policy matters and it is clear from the feedback we receive from our workshops that most have had little or no training to allow them to translate their findings to policy-makers, or to be effective communicators to non-scientists. Newton’s Apple has developed the Newton’s Heirs Programme of “Introduction to Science Policy” workshops.  The programme was developed with the help of young research scientists, civil servants and politicians and was designed for early career scientists and engineers.  The main aim of the programme is to help scientists and engineers to understand how science policy is made and how they can communicate their science to policy makers.

The Programme was launched in October 2008 with an event in the House of Commons at which the then Minister of Science Lord Drayson and the Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir John Beddington welcomed this much needed initiative.  Since the launch there have been 27 workshops in which over 670 young people have taken part.

The Workshops.

The ”Introduction to Science Policy” workshops were developed from our  experience in running workshops as a  part of the NESTA Crucible Lab project,  the British Association Communication Conference, the Women in Science Networking Conference 2007, and the British Association Festival of Science.

Fourteen of the workshops have been held in London, 11 of which have been kindly hosted in House of Commons Committee rooms in the Palace of Westminster by our MP Trustees.   We have been able to offer the Westminster workshops free of charge thanks to grants from UCB plc, the BBSRC and an anonymous supporter.  In addition we have run two events in partnership with the Institute of Physics, one for University College London, six for the University of East Anglia in Norwich and four for the University of Hull. These university-based workshops are funded by unrestricted Education Grants from the Universities and they last for three hours.  The open workshops held in Parliament are two hours long

The formats of the workshops are similar.   For the Westminster Workshops there are four speakers.  After an introduction to Government and Parliament structures and policy-formulating processes the participants hear from our panel of speakers.  They provide information on science and policy from the perspective of Parliament, Government Departments and Learned Societies. The panellists are experienced MPs or recently retired MPs, Civil Servants from major Government Departments and policy leaders from major scientific Learned Societies.  They bring their own unique experience to the events, and contribute ideas about how scientists can communicate their research to a policy audience.  In the earlier workshops open workshops and in those in the Universities there was also a speaker with experience of how scientific information and advice has lead to changes in Government policy, or has affected a new law in its making. This element has been dropped from the Westminster workshops due to time pressures. However all panellists are encouraged to include examples of how policy can be influenced during their own presentations.  During each workshop there is time for participants to raise their questions with the panellists and to join in discussions of what they have heard. Panel members are also usually available after the meeting for more informal discussion

The participants are also provided with our booklets “Science Policy Explained and Explored” and “How Policy is made – a Short Guide”, which have been supplemented from 2011-12 with our most recent booklet “An Introduction to Policy making in the European Union”.   These are all now available on our website.  As a bonus, participants are also provided with “A Directory of useful Science Policy Websites”.  This was developed as a result of requests from participants in the first workshop. It includes up-to-date website addresses for Government Departments and Governmental bodies, Parliamentary Select Committees,  major Learned Societies and Professional Institutions, Research Councils and Funding Councils, trade bodies, National Academies and the Medical Royal Colleges.

In order to encourage free discussion and questioning the number of participants at each workshop is restricted to 30-35.

Getting feedback from participants.

All participants are asked to fill out feedback forms before leaving workshop.  Our feedback completion rate is high.  Of the 674 people who have attended the workshops, forms were returned by 627.  The average return rate is 93%. Almost half of the events (13/27) had 100% returns.

On the forms participants are asked to score their level of understanding of policy matters before attending the workshop on a four point scale as follows:

  • No understanding
  • Some Understanding
  • A Good Understanding
  • An In-depth Understanding

At the end of the workshop they are asked to score their understanding using the same four point scale.  They are also invited to provide comments specifically on what they liked/disliked about the event and also to provide any general comments or suggestions they may have.

The Participants

For workshops held in the Universities they are responsible for recruiting participants from their own graduate schools.  The Westminster workshops are advertised on the Newton’s Apple Website (www.newtons-apple.org.uk), as well as through the graduate school channels in UCL,  Imperial College and latterly through the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research.  The result is inevitably that the large bulk of participants are from the London area.  However a number of participants come from some of the other London Institutions as well as from further afield. For example participants have come from Southampton, Warwick, Bristol, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley to attend workshops.

As these workshops are designed for early career researchers it is not surprising that over 90% of them are PhD students or post-doctoral  researchers.  However we also have had trainees in various other disciplines, more senior academics, staff from science-based companies, Research Councils and other organisations attending.

There is great demand for these workshops from young scientists and engineers.  For example, all of our workshops in the present academic year have been oversubscribed. Following advertisements for the December 2011 workshop over 130 applications were received.

The participants varied in their level of knowledge of policy processes and, of those providing the information on the feedback forms, across all 27 workshops 241 (38.4%) claimed no prior understanding and 340 (54.2%) claimed to have had some understanding.   Forty two (0.6%) claimed to have had a good understanding and four (0.6%) to have had an in-depth understanding. ( See Table I.) There was some variability in prior experience between workshops, but those with either no or limited prior understanding always made up the great majority of participants (80% – 100%; average 92.6%).

 

The Feedback

Of those participants providing feedback after the workshop none reported that they were leaving with ‘no understanding’ of policy processes.  Twenty five percent claimed to have gained ‘some understanding’ as a result of the workshops but the majority (66.3%) felt they now had a ‘good understanding’.  Furthermore  54 (8.6%), including the 4 who came with this level of understanding, felt they were leaving with an ‘in-depth’ understanding.  (See Table I.)

Table I.  A Comparison of level of understanding of participants before and after the workshops

 

Level of

Knowledge

 Beforeworkshop

 

%

After workshop

 

%

No Understanding 241  38.4 0 0
Some Understanding 340 54.2 157 25.0
Good Understanding 42  6.7 416 66.3
In-depth Understanding 4 0.6 54 8.6
Number of returns 627   627  

 

Taken across all of the workshops, over 90% of participants claimed an increase of at least one level on our 4 point scale as a result of the workshop (See Table II).  These changes can be looked at in the different groups according to their levels of knowledge of policy matters before the workshop (See Table III.).

The majority of those claiming no change in their levels as a result of their attendance were in the groups claiming a pre-existing good (62% of the group) or an ‘in-depth’ (100% of the group) level of understanding. However one of the participants in the ‘in-depth’ group was engaged in a policy-related PhD project.   However none of those in the ‘no-understanding’ group and only 7.5% of the ‘some understanding’ group left with no improvement in their level of understanding.   However a number of these indicated that, although their understanding had not increased by one level, they had gained some new knowledge by attending the workshop.

Table II.  Improvement in levels of understanding of participants as a result of the workshop

 Improvement  0 levels  1 Level  2 Levels  3 Levels  Total
 No. Participants 56 431 136 4 627
 % Participants 8.9 68.7 21.7 0.6  

 

Of those in the ‘no-understanding’ group 98% claimed to have increased their level of understanding by either one or two levels and four actually claimed to be leaving with an ‘in-depth understanding’. In the ‘some understanding’ group 83.5% had improved their understanding by one level and 30 of this group claimed to have increased their understanding to the ‘in-depth’ level. Of those claiming to have already got a ‘good understanding’ before the workshop, 16 (38% of the group) said that their understanding had increased to the ‘in-depth’ level.

Participants also had an opportunity to include comments on the workshops on their feedback forms. Over 90% of them did so.  Many of the comments provided some very constructive suggestions for future workshops and these have been taken into account in the continual development of the Newton’s Heirs programme. For example, the introductions of our “Directory of Useful Science Policy Websites” and the production of our booklets  “How Policy is made – a Short Guide”  and  “ An Introduction to Policy making in the European Union” were in direct response to suggestions from participants.

Table III. Change in levels in the different  prior experience Groups.

 Understanding level at start  

None (%)

 

Some     (%)

 

Good (%)

 

In-depth (%)

 No increase

0 (0)

26 (7.5)

26 (62)

4 (100)

 1 level increase

131 (54.4)

284 (83.5)

16(38)

 2 levels increase

106 (44.0)

30 (9)

 3 levels increase

4 (1.7)

 No. in class

241

340

42

4

 

The comments we have received suggest that we are providing for a real need. They also suggest that the level of the information provided in the workshop and the accompanying materials are at the right level to satisfy the great majority of participants.  Comments regularly mention the good balance of speakers and the value they provide in the accounts they give of policy matters from their different perspectives.   We have had many comments suggesting that training of the sort provided by the Newton’s Heirs workshops should be included in the curriculum for the training of most science, engineering and technology postgraduates.  A  number of participants have also requested the provision of an opportunity to enlarge on what they have learnt through the workshops. A selection of comments from recent workshops will be found in the appendix to this report.

Conclusions

It is clear that this workshop programme is meeting a real need of early career scientists and engineers for information about policy formation in the UK and how to become involved.  It is encouraging that there is a real interest in these matters among the SET community.  Over the 27 workshops we have seen, in the discussions, an increasing interest among participants in career prospects in the policy arena.  Indeed, we have had a few participants who have gone on, or who intend to go on, to take up internships and other similar posts in government and parliamentary departments.

The feedback we have obtained from participants has been positive. It has clearly indicated that the workshops are serving a purpose which is not being met elsewhere. The feedback forms are kept deliberately simple in order to encourage their completion and return. No detailed definitions of what knowledge or understanding should be expected at each level are given apart from the simple categorisation of each level.  Because of this our return rate has generally been excellent from most workshops.  The form calls for a self-assessment to score the levels of understanding by the participants prior to, and after, the events and so these are necessarily subjective.  However we believe however that they do give a reasonable indication of the benefit to participants of attending the workshop.  The self-assessment scoring is supplemented by the comments provided on the form and these confirm the broad conclusions that can be drawn from the scoring scheme.

It must be remembered that the prime purpose of these workshops is to provide an “Introduction to Science Policy”. They are therefore aimed at those with either no, or only a cursory, understanding of policy matters. However a significant proportion of those coming to the workshop with a self-assessed “good understanding” have also gained from the workshop.

Our experience with the Newton’s heirs programme to date suggest that it would be beneficial for these workshops to be made more widely available in the regions.   We have been encouraged by the wider geographical representation in those workshops run in partnership with the Institute of Physics.  This was almost certainly encouraged by the Institute offering bursaries for attendees to contribute to their travel costs.  Experience with workshops in the Universities of East Anglia and Hull have shown that they can be successfully provided in other venues away from the Capital and we seek to encourage other Higher Education institutions to consider including Newton’s Heirs workshops as part of their postgraduate STEM programmes.

One recurring theme in the feedback comments is the desire of a number of participants to take their understanding of policy matters further, and to enlarge on what they have learnt through the workshops.  We are therefore currently considering  ways of providing further workshops to give more detailed exposure to particular aspects of the policy making processes.

Acknowledgements

It is a pleasure to acknowledge the help that Newton’s Apple has received from many people in the planning and execution of our Newton’s Heirs workshop programme.  In particular we are grateful to our two former directors of the Foundation, Ms Mia Nybrant and Ms Gillian Pepper, for the energy and enthusiasm that they brought to the project. We wish to thank the members of the Newton’s Heirs steering Committee for their work in establishing the need for these workshops and for creating their structure which has proved so successful and durable.

We owe a particular debt of gratitude to all who have contributed to the workshops as members of the speaker panel – our MP trustees, civil servants from Government departments, and in particular BIS and DEFRA and their predecessor departments, the officers of various Learned Societies and representatives of other organisations who contributed their knowledge and experience of policy Without all of their very willing and enthusiastic help, so freely given, these workshops would not have been possible.  We also thank all those young scientists who contributed to the workshops as participants for their feedback and suggestions. We have found these invaluable in fine tuning these events and for planning our future development of new workshops.

We are grateful to those members of the Universities of East Anglia and Hull and University College London for their support and encouragement, and making it possible for us to take these workshops out of Westminster and bring them to a wider audience. It is a pleasure also to acknowledge our partnership with the Institute of Physics through which it has been possible to engage UK’s Physics community in understanding policy matters.

Finally we thank the Trustees of the Foundation, both past and present, for their support and encouragement, and particularly those who have played active and energetic parts in the workshop programme as members of the panel and, together with their members of staff, for the efficient arranging of venues for these events.

 Michael W.Elves

July 21012

Appendix

Some representative comments from Participants

 

                                              **********

“Interesting talks from a variety of speakers from different backgrounds was good.”

“I liked the input from different parties which gave different perspectives”

“All speakers very good and informative.”

“Nice span of viewpoints.  All speakers good and interesting. Thanks for the Website lists and participants pack.”

“It was very interesting and useful to hear from people involved in different aspects of the policy process.”

“Good range of speakers, welcomed the opportunity to ask questions.”

“Great to get viewpoints from so many experienced people.”

“The speakers were all extremely clear and enthusiastic  about their work and their subjects.  It is very encouraging.”

“I liked hearing about how the policy process was explained with first hand examples.”

“I liked the clear explanation of the relationship between science and policy.”

**********

“Booklet clearly written outlining major players.”

“I will find the ’Directory of useful Science Websites’ particularly useful’.”

“The materials provided will be very useful for me and I will look up several of the reports mentioned.”

“Good additional material.”

“Useful information pack from Newton’s Apple; it will be good for future reference/contacts.”

“Really good accompanying materials – Nice format – good intro and nice to get lots of different perspectives from the panel.”

“I liked the workshop booklets as point for further reference. A very timely workshop.”

**********

“The Introduction presentation gave a clear picture.”

“A good introduction – thank you to the speakers, truly extraordinary people.”

“The MP speaker gave a good step-by-step scheme for translating scientific work into policy.”

“I appreciated the MP’s  realistic appraisal of the process.”

“The talk from the MP  was very engaging.”

“I liked the MP’s talk and display of the organisational structure of Governmental Offices and Departments.”

“Getting the MP’s perspective was very enlightening – really useful and interesting”

“ I enjoyed the Civil Servant speakers presentation and views.”

“The talk on the civil service was extremely useful to me.”

“I liked the session on ‘my experience of science in Government’.’”

“It was interesting to hear how science works in Government.”

“ I particularly liked hearing about the work of DEFRA.”

“ I liked the talks on lessons for campaigning and how DEFRA works.”

“The recommendations for how to get involved were very useful – the Learned Society speaker was very enlightening  –  gave useful information.”

“I liked the information regarding the importance of Learned Societies in the influencing of science policy.”

“I liked the talk about the importance of being part of valid learned societies for having impact on your say in policy making.”

“ I really agree with the opinion to join the Learned Society in your research field  .. but I don’t think it necessary to make too clear borders between the different fields.”

“I loved the comments from the Royal Society of Chemistry science policy representative.  Very good contributions from all the speakers.”

“I especially liked the Bee presentation. It was great to be told a few practical examples (of how policy can be influenced) to be able to understand these issues in a good way for people with not much knowledge about these sorts of situations.!”

“The British Bee Keepers Association talk is a good example to understand Science policy.”

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“ I liked the questions – very informative broad discussion.”

“ The open discussion at the end of the session was very interesting and informative.”

“I particularly liked the question/discussion time – it could have been longer.”

“The discussion was extremely helpful.”

“I greatly enjoyed all parts of the workshop, especially the discussion.”

“I liked the healthcare policy issues discussed – dementia and diabetes. I would like to know why these issues get ignored given the economic & societal advantages to research in these areas.”

“Discussion session at the end was most useful; able to ask specific questions – speakers opinions very valuable.”

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“Good mix of information. I am more interested in Science Policy now.”

“Overall I found it very informative with regards to science policies – with plenty of encouragement to consider engaging in science policy myself.”

“Very worthwhile – scientists need to know this stuff.”

“Extremely useful session. Sparked an interest in this area.”

“I would highly recommend this and similar workshops to my peers. I think it is important for scientists to know about science policy and science in Government.”

“I believe that all science degrees and postgraduate study should include assignments on science policy and awareness to allow more communication and understanding between scientists and politicians.”

“Great – this should be more widely offered – eg in Universities and career services.”

“I really enjoyed all of it.  My only comment is that it was too short, I would have liked to hear more.”

“Down-to-earth approach very much appreciated and very refreshing.”

“There was no talk today that I disliked, which is very unusual for a PPD Course. Fantastic talks,”

“Everything was good and interesting. It should be for all day next time.”

“Very interesting and useful.  Would have liked a full day perhaps with some role play.”

“Fascinating. Thanks.”

“A very good and worthwhile workshop. Thank you.”

Newton’s Apple and the Institute of Physics

A Newton’s Apple workshop for Physicists

Once again the Newton’s Apple Foundation will be collaborating with the Institute of Physics to bring an “Introduction to Science Policy” workshop to the Physics Community.  The workshop will be held at the Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT at 14.30 – 17.00 on Thursday 15th November 2012

The speakers at the workshop will be Dr Michael Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple, Dr Ian Gibson, former MP for Norwich and Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, Dr Chris McFee, Head of Civil Contingencies in the Government Office for Science, Professor Peter Main, Director, Education and Science, Institute of Physics and Mr Tim Lovett,­ the British Association of Bee Keepers.

Each of the speakers will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists can communicate more effectively with policy makers, and participants will have the opportunity to pose their questions on science policy issues and put their ideas about how the science-into-policy process can be improved to the panelists.

This is a free workshop but the available places are limited to 30 and will be allocated on a strictly first come first served basis

To book your place on the seminar please register online at https://www.eventsforce.net/iop/320/register