Tag Archives: networks

Evidence-based policy in action

Science has evolved over many centuries to become an integral part of modern society, underpinning our health, wealth generation and cultural fabric. This process has been distinguished by an implicit collaboration between science and business, government, and the wider community.

However, the integration of science with evidence-based policy has – in this century – often been wilfully disregarded by politicians in many countries, who either cherry-pick or completely ignore the science when it does not accord with their political agenda. Most recently in the United States, we have seen “alternative facts” supplant scientific and other evidence bases in the “post-fact” era.

While surveys continue to show that the vast majority of people still support and believe in the benefits of science, the politicisation of science has inevitably raised seeds of doubt, or polarised many people’s world view.

So it is important now, more than ever, to reinforce with politicians the value and respect for science in the creation of evidence-based policy.

In Australia, a key connection between science and politics is the annual “Science meets Parliament” (SmP) event, which began in 1999, and which today is organised by Science and Technology Australia.  This unique event, that each year brings together hundreds of scientists and the Australian Parliament, owes its success to the way in which it saturates Parliament with science for two days; the great majority of parliamentarians are engaged in the all-pervasive nature of this important scientific exchange.

There are three key outcomes of SmP that distinguish it from a lobbying event:

1. Scientists both young and old – through their enthusiasm for their research – convey the excitement and the benefits of science to parliamentarians, thereby helping to close the “virtuous cycle” that supports science in society;

2. Scientists, at the same time, develop an appreciation for the process of government, contributing significantly to their professional development;

3. Finally, lasting networks are created between parliamentarians and scientists. They go beyond the meetings at SmP, and enable scientific engagement with Parliament to extend more broadly, both geographically and throughout scientific and parliamentary careers.

These networks, and the collaborations that they engender, are key to ensuring the ongoing contribution of science to government decision-making and evidence-based policy, and thereby to enhancing the role of science in our society.

As is the case with science and industry, it is important to continuously innovate in our governance processes; without this, the political system cannot respond to the changing needs of the community.

Science, through events like Science meets Parliament, is a key part of that evolution. We must work tirelessly to reinvigorate this engagement, and to counter those who might seek to cherry-pick and subvert the science that underpins our evidence-based society.

Professor Kenneth Baldwin

Director, Energy Change Institute, Australian National University

Founder, Science Meets Parliament

Read next: Kylie Walker, CEO of Science & Technology Australia, sheds light on the platforms that allow researchers to forge relationships with Australia’s decision-makers.

Spread the word: Help Australia become a collaborative nation! Share this piece on collaboration towards evidence-based policy using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Digital Disruption Thought Leadership Series here.

Environments for collective creation

Having lived and worked in Australia for almost three years now, I’ve heard a lot of talk about collaboration and why it is important to Australia’s future. Unfortunately, it has often been my experience that old habits and ways of working are not facilitating the hoped-for gains that collaboration and collaborative environments could bring this lucky country.

Why is collaboration so difficult?

Collaboration is time-consuming and uncomfortable, especially if you are working with people whose cultures, values and key performance indicators are different from your own. It also requires compromise, and people protecting the status quo may find it is strategically logical to avoid this.

Likewise, collaboration involves the neutral review of data, insights and experiences, followed by open ideation, debate, co-creation and co-design, which can be risky for those who like to pre-determine outcomes before meetings even commence.

Nonetheless, it is generally accepted, in terms of knowledge exchange and value creation, that collaboration in the aggregate results in net positive returns on investment. In short, improving collaboration holds the promise of better research, bigger impacts, more jobs and greater wealth for Australian research-intensive institutions, industry, government and society.

So how can we grease the wheels of collaboration so it is easier, faster and more impactful?

Collaborative environments enable our collective capacity

First, we need to embrace new ways of working, including world-class collaborative environments. Ideally these are custom-built, but really what is required are open, flexible spaces, modern audio and video equipment, and furniture and whiteboards on wheels to enable fast and easy reconfiguration.

Second, we need to embrace the idea that skilled and neutral co-design facilitators and knowledge workers can dramatically accelerate the quality and quantity of outputs, especially in complex organisations and systems.

Think of how the human brain works. Each of us is limited to our knowledge, experiences and perspectives. However, if we bring together 60+ individuals – preferably representing a variety of cultures, disciplines, sectors and perspectives – and organise them to go through a well-designed series of modules in collaborative environments, it is possible to get the group of individuals to function like a vast neural network – a collective brain that can co-create, co-design and co-own outputs.  

Third, and most importantly, we can no longer afford to regard community life – whether in academy or corporation – as a zero-sum game. Rather, we need to be humble, generous and confident enough to set aside our vested interests and work together to find a better way.

We need to respect the evidence, embrace the risks and trust the collective knowledge, talents and wisdom of those around us to create something bolder, richer and grander than we can ever achieve if we continue to work alone or in silos.

Brad Furber

COO, Michael Crouch Innovation Centre

Read next: Dr Mark Elliott, founder of Collabforge, offers five steps organisations can follow to dramatically increase their chances of successful collaboration.

Spread the word: Help Australia become a collaborative nation! Share this piece on collaborative environments using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Digital Disruption Thought Leadership Series here.