Creating Conversations Between Researchers and Government

With the release of its inaugural Annual Report, the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE) is poised to become the premier platform at the University for early-career researchers to engage with the policy world.

On Monday, June 10th, the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange released its first Annual Report featuring the first in a set of “Horizon Scanning” pieces designed to help early-career researchers engage with policy makers. CUSPE is a new student-run initiative, partnered with the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP), and created to facilitate communication between early-career researchers and policy makers at the highest levels of government. “The society has achieved amazing work this year, from arranging outstanding lectures, to providing networking opportunities, to meeting directly with a range of senior policy makers,” says Patrick Wollner, a second-year Engineering PhD student and President of CUSPE. “We now have a solid foundation to build upon over the coming year to maximise our presence within the University and beyond.”

“Horizon scanning” is the term used in the policy world to mean preparing for upcoming challenges. Climate change, for example, is a classic example of where horizon scanning has ended up as a major driver of research and economic growth. Policy makers understand that people on the front lines of research are often best equipped to understand and tackle such issues, but until recently, there have been limited communication channels between the research community and policy world. The Horizon Scanning articles in the CUSPE Annual Report are designed to solve this problem. The articles draw on the most up-to-date academic insights from early-career researchers, and are directed at the contemporary policy issues governments’ face, while remaining short and digestible for non-technical audiences.

Contributions came from a wide range of academic topics, from tackling climate change and health costs, to managing employees in the public sector. The initiative is set to grow over the next year, with further Horizon Scanning pieces currently being sought from early career researchers. If you are interested in submitting your own Horizon Scanning piece, or to discuss in what ways your research could be relevant to policy makers, please contact Patrick Wollner (

Further details


Arnoud Groen As Healthcare costs continue to rise unsustainably in relation to the wider economy, how can we tackle this problem without simply spending more public funds? Arnoud argues that many of the solutions needed to improve healthcare are inexpensive, and rely more on collaboration between academia, industry and entrepreneurs, as opposed to simply more government spending. This piece outlines some opportunities to deal with this problem, including stratified medicine, the development of new uses for existing interventions and re-thinking the logistics of patient care.

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Electric Vehicles

Claire Weiller Claire’s research focuses on how new business models can help overcome the obstacles typically presented by electric vehicles, including high battery costs, current range limitation, and the lack of infrastructure. The piece highlights the fact that much remains unknown about what business models will look like in future. Will customers even own their batteries? How will companies make money from these systems beyond selling cars? What are the opportunities for electric vehicles to be connected to the electricity grid? Claire discusses these issues which are central to her PhD research.

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Financial Incentives

Joe Gladstone Joe asks what are the primary levers available to encourage innovative ideas and behaviours from public sector employees? To answer this, he outlines evidence from behavioural science which suggests that to encourage innovative and creative performance managers must look beyond financial incentives, as monetary rewards may in fact have a negative impact on innovative and creative behaviours. Joe draws upon evidence from psychologists and neuroscientists, and argues that classical economic principles of reward through financial incentives break down when dealing with more complex and creative tasks.

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Solar Energy

Claire Armstrong Claire’s piece addresses the crucial issue of renewable energy, and outlines the potential for solar cells as a viable alternative to replace finite energy resources. The piece describes different kinds of cells and their level of efficiency. Looking specifically at Germany, Claire argues that if a cloudy country in Northern Europe can generate such a substantial proportion of their energy mix from solar, there is great potential for the future of solar cells globally, particularly as research continues to make strong strides to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

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Nuclear Proliferation

Stephen Ashley What stops rogue states or terrorists from acquiring the materials for a nuclear bomb? Stephen explores the different barriers, from material to technological, and describes the categorisation of these barriers from a scientific perspective. He discusses the resistance of technologies to proliferation, raising the issue that such definitions are unknown in novel fuel technologies of the future. Anyone who has ever been kept awake at night wondering whether Plutonium or Uranium is easier to weaponise should read this piece.

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Medical Travel

Kai Ruggeri What are the policy implications of patients who travel abroad to receive required medical care? Is there the possibility for a coordinated international response? These questions and many more are discussed by Kai, who highlights the clear lack of evidence on what is referred to as Global Health Access Policy (GHAP) to address the multitude of political, medical, and ethical issues surrounding this phenomenon. Kai suggests that dealing with the situation requires an understanding of its consequences for human welfare and outlines how his research group at Cambridge is engaging with the debate through evidence.

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