A new evidence matchmaking service for politicians and researchers was launched this week. Dr Chris Chambers explains in this guest blog how the new initiative will connect the collective expertise of UK research professionals, find with UK politicians and civil servants; in order to develop a UK Evidence Information Service, ambulance EIS.
Stop for a moment and ask, for sale how many scientists and researchers in the UK contribute to policy making?
It’s a difficult question to answer, but the numbers are not high. Less than 5% of UK academics work annually with the Government Office for Science, and most researchers we know play no role whatsoever in the political process aside from casting the occasional vote.
This divide raises some challenging questions. In times of austerity, and faced with global challenges such as climate change, energy supply, and public health, are our evidence-based policies fully informed about the state of knowledge? Is our democracy making the most from the remarkable concentration of UK research talent at its fingertips?
We think we can do more – a lot more – which is why we’re proposing a UK Evidence Information Service, or EIS. We want to open the doors of academia more widely than ever before by creating a rapid ‘matchmaking’ service to link politicians and civil servants with research experts.
The EIS will be a water fountain that politicians and civil servants can dip into whenever they need rapid discussion with professional researchers. Whatever the question, the EIS will help make the connection.
The EIS will be founded on the principle that a lot can be achieved with a system that is light on bureaucracy, rapid, independent, and trustworthy – and supported by a breadth of expertise across thousands of UK research professionals.
The EIS will also reach beyond the traditional sciences to include evidence-based social sciences and the humanities. Unlocking knowledge and applying it to policy isn’t simple or straightforward, but to do it better we need to get the political and research communities talking across as many fields as possible.
There are, of course, already many excellent systems for supplying detailed scientific advice to politicians, and there’s no point reinventing the wheel. That’s why we’ve spent over a year formulating plans for the EIS based on input from politicians, civil servants, policy experts, scientists, charities, and organisations including the Alliance for Useful Evidence.
We think we’ve found a formula that complements existing systems, but we need your help to put our theory to the test. As one of our contacts in Westminster told us early on, it’s all well and good supplying a service for politicians, but will there be sufficient demand for them to use it? We need to know what that demand is across the UK and how to make the EIS as useful as possible.
We’re calling for members of the public to interview their local politicians about the EIS in a 20-minute structured interview. There are over 900 elected representatives across the UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and we want to hear from as many as possible. We’ll then use this feedback to shape the EIS, and we’ll also be publishing the results in a peer-reviewed journal.
To become one of our local champions, you don’t need to be a professional researcher – just aged over 18 and eligible to vote in UK elections. To find out more, please read our welcome letter and email [email protected] for more information.
Co-founders of the Evidence Information Service:
Chris Chambers is Senior Research Fellow in Cognitive Neuroscience at Cardiff University
Natalia Lawrence is a Senior Lecturer in Translational Medicine at the University of Exeter
Andrew Kythreotis is a Lecturer and Research Fellow in Environmental and Climate Policy and Governance at Cardiff University
Gerard O’Grady is a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics at Cardiff University
Sven Bestmann is a Reader in Motor Neuroscience at University College London
This blog was written by Chris Chambers.