Northumbria University part of £3.9m national collaboration to support academic engagement with public policy

Northumbria University has joined forces with UCL and the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester and Nottingham, as well as Parliament, Government and policy organisations, in a project to explore ways of improving academic-policy engagement.

The project, led by UCL, is supported with almost £4m of funding from Research England, with partner institutions contributing further resource, bringing the total value to nearly £10m.

As the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated, the need for reliable evidence which can inform public debate and policy has never been greater. With increasing pressure on public finances, it is also vital that local and central governments can be confident that their policy interventions will be effective and successful – and academic expertise has a crucial role to play in that process.

Now, thanks to a £3.9m award from Research England, the three-year Capabilities in Academic-Policy Engagement (CAPE) project aims to foster and support academic engagement with policy professionals, and enable greater understanding and cooperation between universities, national government, parliament and regional and local authorities.

CAPE is a partnership between Northumbria, UCL, and the Universities of Cambridge, Manchester and Nottingham, with input and support from the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology, the Government Office for Science, the Alliance for Useful Evidence, and the Transforming Evidence hub.

The project will support academic-policy engagement at scale and, crucially, will engage universities and policy stakeholders from across England. This will ensure a greater balance in the interests and expertise represented and ensure the project is addressing issues of policy beyond Westminster, to reflect the diversity of England’s communities.

The CAPE project will pilot a range of interventions to improve the quality of academic input into public policy, enabling universities to respond to emerging and pressing questions in an agile, targeted way. By working in partnership, it is hoped that both researchers and policy professionals will be able to connect experts in their field more quickly, and co-develop effective interventions based on reliable evidence.

In addition, the project will develop a range of evidence-based tools and resources to support academic-policy engagement and establish a virtual Centre for Universities and Public Policy (CUPP) to provide a collaborative platform for networking and sharing knowledge.

Professor George Marston, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at Northumbria University, said: “In the current environment, it is more important than ever that policy – both local and national – is developed by government in a way that is supported by robust evidence. Universities can and do play a critical role in providing this evidence base.

“This area of research is of strategic importance to Northumbria University, and I am absolutely delighted therefore to see the success of this partnership of leading research universities and policymakers, which will lead to a step change in academic-policy engagement.”