Sir Patrick Vallance, the recently departed Government Chief Scientific Adviser, was one of the few constants during the pandemic. Appearing at the daily Downing Street press conferences, he became associated with a very clear message: the Government were ‘following the science’.
At a recent event hosted by the Institute for Government, he explained that the approach was more complex. In fact, scientific evidence was only one input, alongside a multitude of other considerations, that informed the policies followed during the pandemic.
Ahead of his appearance in front of the Science, Innovation and Technology Select Committee tomorrow, our Public Affairs team explores some of the lessons Sir Patrick learnt as Government Chief Scientific Adviser; how evidence should be used; and the three key things business should consider when engaging with government.
One key takeaway from the conversation with Sir Patrick was the need to have a strong evidence-base when engaging with government on policy – it forms a key aspect of the decision-making process.
When businesses have an idea for how government can make improvements in their sector, they are often well-informed by a depth of knowledge and experience. Without the right evidence however, these insights are unlikely to be robust enough for policy makers to change their approach.
If you are armed with an evidence-base – customer insights, scientific modelling, economic impact analysis – you can go to government with a well-supported offer or ask which is hard to ignore.
As Sir Patrick remarked, however, evidence is only one input into the development of policy.
While it can be used to inform a policy, there are a multitude of other factors considered when decisions are made. For example, what does the existing infrastructure look like, how much funding is available, and should this be a priority for government right now? Being aware of the wider policy environment and placing evidence in a context that is familiar to policy makers is crucial when engaging with the government.
As experts in their sector, businesses should be tapping into an understanding of what those considerations might be, and how evidence can be framed within that context. Presenting your evidence in a way that is relevant to the policy landscape, and policy-making more broadly, will ensure you are speaking to your audience in a language they understand.
Sir Patrick is widely credited with converting a former-Prime Minister from a climate sceptic into having his “road to Damascus moment”. When discussing how he achieved this, he stated that his role was not to be the expert, but rather the trusted voice within government making sure the problem, and the supporting evidence, was clearly understood by the then-Prime Minister.
Businesses are in an excellent position to play that expert role by informing and supporting those trusted voices within government. By providing critical evidence and insights, and engaging effectively, businesses can create a compelling story for government and ensure that their views are heard.
Sir Patrick’s message was clear, businesses have an important role to play in informing policy. And, if government acts on their recommendations, the subsequent changes in policy could make a significant impact on their fortunes in the future.
If you’d like to have an informal chat about how the government approaches policy making, what evidence you might need to make your policy asks more compelling, and how to share it with policy makers, please get in touch via [email protected]