Spotlight on Chris Tyler
20 July 2017
This week the spotlight is on Chris Tyler, Director of Public Policy, UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP).
What is your role and what does it involve?
I recently joined UCL in a newly created post as Director of Public Policy in the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP). STEaPP is a relatively new department that specialises in research and teaching with real-world policy application. STEaPP's outstanding research and teaching programmes have been growing rapidly over the past four years. My job is to help beat a path between academia and policy; to make travel between the two easier and more productive. In practice, this means that I'll spend half my time setting up programmes that connect academia with policy, and the other half thinking, writing and speaking about the role of evidence in public policy.
What was your previous role?
I was Director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). For those outside ParlIament, you may have come across POST's popular 'POSTnotes', which are short briefing papers for MPs and Peers that place the latest research evidence in a policy context - they are all publicly available. Inside Parliament, POSTnotes are widely used and valued, but POST also provides other services, for example advising select committees on the technical aspects of inquiries, training parliamentary staff on research methods, and building personal connections between academics and parliamentarians through exhibitions, seminars and breakfast briefings.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Two stand out. The first is a general change... When I arrived, POST felt like an isolated body within Parliament; it was connected to other parts of the internal advisory system by a series of difficult (and often antagonistic) relationships. Today, POST is much more integrated, with fruitful partnerships across both Houses. In particular, I am proud of the way that POST has upped its game working with select committees. By increasing our collaboration with the select committees, we have been able to inject a lot of evidence and impartial scientific advice into the scrutiny of government policy.
The second... POST historically dealt only with the natural sciences, technology and engineering. It was obvious to me that the social sciences needed a more prominent voice because (a) the majority of issues that politicians care most about (social care, education, criminal justice etc) are subjects of social science research; (b) the social sciences are also crucial for understanding the technical areas in which POST had historically worked (health, climate change, energy, transport etc); and (c) the action of providing science advice to policy makers is itself a social science process. The collaboration with ESRC and UCL STEaPP to establish POST's social science team has been an unmitigated success.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
I don't yet have any projects up and running because the post is new and I've only just started. However, we are eyeing projects such as expanding STEaPP's How to Change the World educational programme (which is part of the Integrated Engineering Programme), co-design of research projects with policy partners, and executive and professional education.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Argh! That's too difficult. Mozart's Requiem (the Christopher Hogwood version); I don't know... Godfather, Star Wars, Casablanca, Overboard, Old School...?; and I don't have one - I don't read many novels.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
All my favourite jokes are post-watershed.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Greg Popovich, Phil Jackson and Coach K.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Clip the knee of a player driving to the basket.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I'm a basketball nut (see the two previous answers).
What is your favourite place?