Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) is an organisation run by and for early career researchers that aims to build stronger links between its members and government policy-makers. Founded in 2012, the society strives to support young researchers who wish either to influence policy from within the research environment of the University or to pursue directly a career with the governments of the UK or European Union. CUSPE attracts researchers from across the academic disciplines (scientists, engineers and social scientists), all of whom have a desire to understand how their own research, or science more generally, fits within a broader policy context.

The society builds on the earlier achievements of the CONNECTIONS lecture series held at Darwin College. This highly successful initiative by CUSPE’s founders, Tim Guilliams and Alberto García-Mogollón, brought prominent speakers to the University to discuss with students and researchers current research topics that intersect with key policy issues. CUSPE will continue the success of CONNECTIONS by continuing to host at least six public lectures each year, each followed by a reception for all attendees and dinner for selected guests. Such events encourage effective communication between researchers, industry representatives and policymakers whilst also offering unrivalled networking and career development opportunities for researchers interested in policy.

The recent surge in interest amongst early-career researchers as to the interaction between science and policy can to some extent be attributed to the work of CUSPE’s innovative partner organisation, the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP). Formed in 2009 and also based at the University, the centre aims to facilitate meaningful interactions between established academics and government policy makers. It does this by bringing esteemed Policy Fellows to Cambridge
from Whitehall and beyond for an intensive series of meetings with some of the University’s outstanding academics and researchers. CSaP makes a valuable contribution to solving the problem – identified by several reports published in the year before it was founded – of the gulf in understanding between policy makers and scientists.

As the problems facing society in the 21st century become ever more complex, from climate change to the stability of interconnected financial institutions to ensuring national and international security, governments worldwide are acknowledging the need for an evidence-based approach to policy making. However, the practical implementation of
this worthy ideal is often fraught with difficulties, and until recently there were only limited channels of communication between researchers and policy makers through which to discuss the issue – often underutilised or undervalued even where they did exist. It is this growing and continual dialogue which CUSPE and CSaP, targeting early-career and established researchers and policy-makers, seek to facilitate.

Looking to the future, CUSPE will continue to deliver a series of prominent public lectures and debates on the intersection between current research and key topical policy issues featuring renowned speakers from academia, industry and government. Complementing these lectures and debates will be a small number of interactive workshops at which early-career researchers can engage more directly with particular policy issues in an encouraging and receptive environment. CUSPE also aims to strengthen involvement in its activities from the wider university community and beyond, hosting events that will include local organisations, politicians and members of the local Cambridge community. CUSPE recognises that to achieve a tangible societal impact it must interest and involve a diverse and interdisciplinary audience. It is therefore through the above outreach activities that CUSPE will help shape the next generation of academics and policy-makers able to appreciate and embed an evidence-based approach in British and European public policy.