UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


Supporting knowledge intermediaries to improve science policy interfaces & tackle global challenges

1 June 2022

Dr Luís Lacerda, Policy Adviser, and Dr Jean-Christophe Mauduit, Lecturer in Science Diplomacy, UCL STEaPP, discuss the need for knowledge intermediaries to strengthen science policy interfaces and facilitate international cooperation.

Professor Joanna Chataway, Professor Manuel Heitor, Dr Luís Lacerda and Dr Jean-Christophe Mauduit

Through excellent REF results, UCL has demonstrated that academic success, amongst others, very much relies on hosting and celebrating a diversity of cultures and backgrounds, something that makes UCL a truly global university. To further capitalise on this, there is a need to develop more innovative schemes that allow like-minded researchers to work together across disciplinary boundaries. Indeed it is at these intersections and through multidisciplinary work that new ideas and solutions can emerge to tackle global challenges such as climate change or the COVID-19 pandemic. Infusing science in decision-making and enhancing the interfaces between science and policy and science and diplomacy are particularly important in addressing these challenges.

A specific example of collaboration across UCL departments and disciplines to work on these interfaces comes from the authors of this blog. It is tied to a partnership that started two years ago, which eventually led to the organisation of a series of knowledge exchange events in 2021 to discuss science advice capacity for the Embassy of Portugal in the UK (funded by internal UCL awards - Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Fund and Global Engagement Fund). Today we are happy to announce the launch of the report detailing these activities and recommendations to the Portuguese government and other stakeholders. In addition, we also want to reflect on the impact of these activities and reports that go well beyond its original main objectives.

This report sets out to explore the development of science, technology and innovation (STI) capacity at the Embassy of Portugal in the UK and details discussions with the Portuguese Association of Researchers and Students in the UK (PARSUK), members of the Portuguese government and other international policy makers. Importantly, it also draws attention to the fact that science advice is one of several purposes of a science diplomacy strategy. In addition to advancing a country’s STI needs it can foster cross-country STI interests, attract foreign investment and support participation in tackling global scientific challenges.

This report was supported and prefaced by the former Portuguese Minister for Science Technology and Higher Education, Professor Manuel Heitor, who early on participated in the series of events that preceded today’s launch. The engagement with the authors of this blog has led to opportunities to discuss future joint projects, in particular through a recent in-person visit of Prof. Heitor to the UCL Department of Science Technology Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP). Among many fruitful discussions, issues of leveraging knowledge and innovation in times of uncertainty to guarantee responsible, climate-aware systems in complex landscapes in a decentralised and AI-supported digital age were identified as particularly salient. Other discussions and avenues for potential research collaborations between UCL and Portuguese universities have also been identified.

In addition, while the activities in 2021 originally focused on Portugal, they also brought into the discussion representatives from various countries to exchange on best practices and current research and policy needs. These, in turn, have already sparked collaborations with the Embassy of the Netherlands in the UK. Finally, the work co-developed by the authors has led Luís Lacerda to start a position of Policy Adviser at STEaPP following the end of his postdoctoral position at the Institute of Child Health. At STEaPP he will be continuing his work in facilitating international policy engagement at UCL, as he joined the Policy Impact Unit, which aims to increase the use of UCL research produced within UCL in the policymaking process, by collaborating with researchers and policy professionals to design bespoke policy engagement strategies that have real impact.

Dr Luís Lacerda, Policy Adviser and Dr Jean-Christophe Mauduit, Lecturer in Science Diplomacy, UCL STEaPP.