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A message from Lab Director Marc Stears

Our inaugural Director Marc Stears sets out an ambitious agenda for the UCL Policy Lab

Welcome to the UCL Policy Lab! 

We face immense challenges right now, whoever we are and wherever we live. From the continuing pandemic to the climate catastrophe, or from intensifying economic inequalities to the impact of new technology and war, our world is being disrupted in profoundly worrying ways. Here in the UK, millions of people are being confronted with a cost of living crisis that leaves citizens of one of the richest countries on earth having to make a choice between feeding their families or heating their homes.

In the face of all this, policymakers the world over seem unable to come forward with new ideas that measure up either to the scale of these problems or the urgency of this moment. And our polarised and divisive politics threaten to make matters worse.

But we must not despair. The transformative ideas that we all need are already out there. We can find them in the papers our researchers write, in discussions in seminar rooms and lecture theatres, and also in office blocks, community centres, church halls, temples, pubs, on the factory floor and across Zoom calls.    

The UCL Policy Lab exists to harness all of this energy, dynamism and passion.

We will bring together the world-class, data-driven, research in UCL’s Departments of Economics and Political Science, with people from all different backgrounds who are hungry for real world solutions to the problems they face every day. We will do so knowing that, because the problems we confront are vast and complex, they can only be solved by people working together, across difference. When we are divided by background, ideology or geography, we are far less able to see what needs to be done and take the action required. When we work together, we can learn and move forward together too.   

The wonderful stories that we set out in a special magazine created for our launch we give you a hint of what can be done. Here you can read about what makes people from a whole range of different experiences and expertise hopeful about the future. You will get a sense of the ideas generated by some of our forward-thinking academics and the ways in which they speak to the needs of our whole community.

You can read too about the people who are ready to bring change, accompanied by a series of citizen portraits. Many people have talked to us about the real impacts of the cost of living crisis. And yet just as powerfully, there is always a spirit of resilience and hope; a belief that we can yet overcome our challenges if we’re given the means to do so. 

Too often in the past, universities have acted as the gatekeepers of knowledge, with scholars beavering away in libraries and laboratories, separate from the world. But that was never necessary and it simply isn’t good enough now. The UCL Policy Lab has been created to break down the barriers that keep the best research in economics and political science so far apart from governments, businesses, campaigners and communities at large.

I hope very much that you will get involved and that in time, the UCL Policy Lab will be your policy lab too. I believe that together, we can be confident about our ability to help overcome the challenges we all face.

Marc Stears

Director, UCL Policy Lab

This message originally appeared in the UCL Policy Lab magazine.