Guest in Cambridge

 

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Being in Oxford, I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to speak in ‘the other university’-  an excellent occasion for spending a few days in this lovely place.

An audience of young academics for the Cambridge University, at the Science & Policy Exchange initiative

I had the honour and the pleasure of being invited for a keynote ‘Science and policy exchange: a check-up’ at the very first Cambridge University Science & Policy Exchange initiative (CUSPE).

It was great to speak in this wonderful venue of the Old Divinity School of St John’s College to over 100 students, who spent more than four hours at this event on science and policy.  Amongst the other attendees, there even was the father of one of our former STOA trainees. Unlike St Antony’s College, where most of the colleagues and students are political scientists and historians, the Cambridge audience had mostly natural scientists.

I was introduced by Robert Doubleday, the Executive Director of the Centre for Science and Policy, supporting the event. The seminar was organized by a team of enthusiastic women.

Candidate trainees with a natural science background

The CUSPE president, Dr Karen Stroobants (PhD from Leuven), is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie post-doctoral Fellow at the Chemistry Department in Cambridge. Karen opened the event with some remarkable advice to the students. She calculated that ‘out of 200 PhDs graduating in the UK, seven will become permanent research staff and only one will become a professor.’ I quote her further: ‘…what a PhD teaches you, more than anything, is a method to approach problems, a way of thinking that can be applied much broader. Don’t focus exclusively on a career in academia, explore your options, approach any diversion from the academic career path as a positive decision and remember that it is the rule rather than the exception. We must move away from the myth that leaving academia equals failure. It doesn’t; your skills are valuable in industry, in consultancy, in policy.

The animated discussions after the event, followed by the mails and the LinkedIn contacts in the days and weeks after the event, have made me assume that we might have quite some candidates with a natural science for the European Parliament Robert Schuman traineeships.

Altogether, it was a pleasant experience, being accommodated in Christ College.

Other visits in Cambridge and London: enjoy the links to the talks!

On this occasion, I not only had meetings with the organizers and attendees of the CUSPE event but I also met other Cambridge experts who were ‘in my bucket list’ in the area of scientific advice:

  • Professor William Sutherland, Miriam Rothschild Professor of Conservation Biology and intrigued by understanding how decisions are made (one of his talks on YouTube),
  • Dr Alexandra Freeman, Executive Director, Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, and
  • Sir Professor David Spiegelhalter, President of the Royal Statistical Society. I also attended his lecture in London, ‘Statistics, risk and the media‘, which was organized by the Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO).  You can enjoy one of his great talks on YouTube; you will understand why the room was fully booked.

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policyandevidence

EU visiting fellow at the European Studies Centre, St Antony's College, University of Oxford

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