Brain Sciences


Measuring our impact in London

28 October 2021

Written by Professor Alan Thompson, Dean, Faculty of Brain Sciences and Pro Vice Provost (London), UCL.

Professor Alan Thompson

In this month’s London Office update I wanted to share some of the progress we are making against our priorities for this term, as well as highlight ways in which we are currently measuring our impact and activities in London.

I outlined in last month’s issue that the London Office is undertaking a significant research project this term, seeking to understand local people’s perceptions of UCL in London as well as perspectives from some of our core partners. I am delighted to share that the first phase of the research has commenced in collaboration with independent, high-profile opinion research company, Deltapoll. The outcomes of this critical study will help the London Office to determine our future priorities and the ways in which we work with, in and for London. I hope to be able to share some of the outcomes later on in the year. Thank you to our partners who have agreed to be involved in the research.

It will come as no surprise that through volunteering efforts, whether in a professional or personal capacity, UCL staff give back to London considerably each year. In early November we will be circulating an all-staff survey to UCL colleagues to start to collate information on this critical area. This is so we can begin to understand what impact our staff are having through volunteering in London, and to understand the organisations’ our staff are working with in the city. I very much hope that you will take just 5 minutes to complete the survey so that we can start to create a baseline of information to help us develop our plans in this area. Please do look out for further details to follow over the next month. All contributions and commitments to London are welcomed. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions or would like to find out more information.

Our partners have also been extremely active over the past month. I was delighted to see the plethora of activity from London Higher last week in their 2021 ‘London HE Week’. Thank you to UCL colleagues Professor Catherine Holloway (Professor of Interaction Design & Innovation, UCLIC and Academic Director, Global Disability Innovation Hub), Dr Gemma Moore (Senior Research Fellow (Evaluation) & Lecturer (Teaching), UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering) and Ruth Unstead-Joss, (Project Manager, Evaluation Exchange, UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering) for taking the time to participate in the weeks’ activities and for showcasing the work UCL is conducting in London.

And finally, it is great to see the progress of UCL’s Capabilities in Academic Policy Engagement (CAPE) programme led by Sarah Chaytor and Olivia Stevenson in UCL Public Policy, UCL Office of the Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation and Global Engagement) and its partnership with the GLA. CAPE and the GLA will shortly be advertising a Policy Fellow opportunity, to create a dedicated knowledge brokerage function within the GLA. The post will build knowledge networks between GLA staff and academics in London and beyond. It will help to support coordination between universities in London in seeking to apply their academic expertise to regional policy priorities, including through working closely with the recently announced London Research and Policy Partnership (LRaPP).

Developing an understanding of student placements between UCL and Camden Council

Within the London Office we are undertaking a review of placement activity between UCL and Camden Council this term as part of our strategic way of working together. Currently student projects and placements between UCL and Camden take place across a range of disciplines and levels, from the Bartlett to Computer Science. At the moment the arrangements for these placements follow the processes set out by the separate departments and faculties at UCL.

The London Office will be undertaking a scoping exercise to understand the current level of placement activity and the processes behind these. This project is a ‘stock check’ which aims to explore how student projects and placements are currently undertaken between the two organisations. It comprises part of our longer-term goals to fully understand the impact UCL has in London.

The first part of this exercise is to carry out a survey of those colleagues who are involved in organising placements at both Camden and UCL. The survey is open to both UCL and Camden colleagues in the first instance and should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete. We would be delighted if you could take the time to complete the form or share with your colleagues who are involved. My colleagues from the London Office will also be contacting departments and faculties directly, to ensure we capture all those working in this area.

The second part of the exercise, and our longer-term aim of the project, is to gain a better understanding of what student projects and placements are, and how they benefit both students and the participating organisation. This could include developing a set of resources for staff at UCL and Camden to ensure that organising the student placement process is as efficient and effective as possible for both organisations. We look forward to updating you in due course on progress.

If you are able to help us collate this key information, please complete the placements survey here, or send any questions to Sarah Beech.


Colleagues from across UCL have continued to impact London and Londoners through their research, opportunities and activities. To share just a couple of examples…

The UCL Institute of Global Prosperity (IGP) is currently leading an exciting new partnership with UCL Office for Open Science. The Academy was launched in September to deliver community-based education, training and accreditation for citizen science.   The first programme is training 11 east London residents in qualitative research methods as part of the delivery of IGP's 10 year study of prosperity, with further programmes to be added. The project is working with Camden Council to explore different funding models for the Citizen Science Academy to make it financially sustainable for delivery and development of Citizen Science across London. The initiative is also piloting a Citizen Science Kitemark to certify competencies for citizen scientists.  For more information on IGP and Citizen Science Academy visit their website here.

UCL Engineering and the Students’ Union UCL Volunteering Service have recently announced a new partnership which will see increased volunteering and engagement opportunities for UCL Engineering students. In addition, the data sharing agreement which forms part of the partnership, will enable UCL to better track the number of UCL Engineering student volunteers, hours and projects. The partnership will build on the already existing strong education engagement programme in UCL Engineering which has volunteering at its core- allowing the students to develop invaluable transferable skills.

Professor James Cheshire (Deputy Director of the Consumer Data Research Centre) has been awarded HEIF knowledge Exchange funding by UCL Innovation & Enterprise to carry out dataset research as part of LB Camden’s ‘Future High Streets Programme’. In response to the challenges presented by changing consumer habits and the huge impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic, Camden Council has initiated the ‘Camden Future High Streets Programme’ to support its high streets through the continuing pandemic and to pave the way for a robust recovery and re-imagined future. The UCL project will provide Camden Council with detailed insights about the range and appropriateness of available data to support its Future High Streets Programme, building a network between the council, its stakeholders and UCL to offer a platform for further data sharing, co-production of research and broader impact.

To share any London impact stories or to get in touch, please contact Amy Lightstone.