Policy decisions that take scientific evidence into account are critical for dealing with the biggest issues we face, like climate change and inequality. Lots of decision making in the UK is now done at a local level, through councils rather than central Government.
On a day-to-day basis councils are making difficult decisions that relate to the environment and climate. Things like:
Should we build more parking?
What type of street lighting should we have?
How can we make our high street safer, to reduce Covid-19 transmission?
What are the environmental impacts of two competing development proposals?
These decisions are easier to make if evidence is available and accessible.
We’ve been awarded a small amount of seed funding from Civic Square’s Dream Fund to pilot placements for scientific researchers to work with their local councils, providing on-demand advice on scientific issues to fit the needs of councillors, and perhaps also passing on the skills to find and use scientific information. The researchers won't be there to advocate and won't sit as part of the council, their role is simply to help find relevant information that might otherwise not be accessible/discoverable by councils, and to broaden the range of information that the councils have available to use.
Progress so far:
The pilot began in March 2021 and ends in June 2021, with 9 researcher-council placements (working remotely/online). The timing is flexible, but most placements are running for about 3 months, with a time commitment for the researchers of ~2-3 days/month to allow them to take part in monthly council meetings, and have a bit of time to do research and reporting. Before the placements started, we provided a short online training session for the researchers, about what councils do and how they work.
The council system in the UK is bewilderingly complex, so we kept this pilot open to all types of council - our final group includes two city councils, one county council, four town councils, two parish councils (one tbc), spread around Cornwall, Devon and Cardiff. Similarly we kept this pilot open to researchers at any stage - our final group ranges from PhD student to Professor, and work in environmental, biological or social sciences. The researchers are working with council clerks, individual councillors, or full councils - most are paired with their local council, but some are more remote.
We'll update this page as the pilot progresses, but if you're interested and want to know more do email us.