Report of Policy Network Meeting, London, 26 June 2009

Report by Máire Messenger Davies ,
MeCCSA Policy Network Co-ordinator

28 people
attended this meeting, from universities all over the country. The
meeting, including lunch and refreshments, was hosted by the School of Journalism at City, organised by Ivor Gaber and Howard Tumber – many thanks to them; the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at City, Christina Slade, also attended. City would be willing to host further meetings.

After preliminary introductions in which individuals outlined their areas of policy research, guest speaker Jonathan Breckon, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, spoke about research initiatives in the AHRC and led a discussion about higher education policy in the Arts and Humanities more generally.

Guest Speaker: Jonathan Breckon, AHRC

Jonathan described new research initiatives supported by the AHRC, which could be useful to policy researchers. He pointed out the importance of ‘impact’ in the forthcoming REF
and the plans by Hefce to reward engagement with policy making,
evaluation and practice. For the Research Councils, he stressed that
impact’ this means includes quality of life, public policy, cultural
and social impact  – i.e. areas of concern to the Arts and Humanities.
He drew attention to the AHRC’s Excellence with impact – Leading the World ; The Economic Impact of UK Arts and Humanities Research booklet, just published, and a speech by the minister David Lammy MP on the value of the arts and humanities.


Possibilities for activities that would attract funding include:

1. Policy seminars possibly jointly funded by the ESRC.
The idea is to get influential individuals from government or civil
service into the room – ‘invite them to lunch’ – and brief them on
specific areas of policy research. For example, AHRC/ESRC/DCMS
seminar on intrinsic vs instrumental value entitled  Not Only…But
Also: Capturing the Value of Culture, Media and Sport
, 26 June 2009

2. The production of succinct briefing documents on policy research:
500 words for civil servants who are ‘desperate for independent
information’. There are precedents, e.g. a the short pamphlet by AHRC and Young Foundation document ‘Civility Lost and Found‘ involving Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative shadow and government ministers.

3. Policy placements:
these are for mid-career academics who would go into a think tank, or
quango for six months and give them specialised advice. Co-funded by
the ESRC and AHRC and the relevant government agency.

Contact Jonathan Breckon for further information on these opportunities.
His address is:
Mr Jonathan Breckon, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Arts and Humanities Research Council
c/o MRC, 20 Park Crescent, London W1B 1AL,
E-mail: j.breckon@ahrc.ac.uk

There was then discussion on a number of topics including IP; security;
public value of Arts and Humanities etc. Several people pointed out
that ‘value’ ‘needs to be evidence based.’

Philip Schlesinger pointed out that the AHRC has a ‘phenomenal database’ of outcomes of end of award reports. Could these be made accessible?

Jeanette Steemers also felt that feedback from the AHRC after they had received outcomes reports would be useful.

Jonathan said these suggestions would be reported back to the AHRC.

Outcomes – Further Action

1. Call for papers and panels for the next MeCCSA conference
at LSE in January, which has a policy theme. Deadline for proposals is
17th September: conference organisers welcome both panels and
individual papers.

2. Rapid response to public consultations: policy researchers should be
alert to these. MeCCSA receives some information about consultation
documents: the Voice of the Listener and Viewer also receives them. It should be possible to alert the network when a consultation document is published, via the MeCCSA Policy Network list.

3. Responses to Digital Britain: there is still time to respond to the proposal for ‘top slicing’ the BBC license fee. Ivor Gaber spoke about the work of the  Voice of the Listener and Viewer
on this and also drew attention to a new coalition called Citizens’
Coalition for Public Service Broadcasting. A discussion paper on the
CCPSB has been sent to the MeCCSA executive.

4. Julian Petley
raised the issue of negative regulation of media content and problems
of ‘censoring’ the internet. He wants to raise awareness of these
concerns and will circulate the network to identify other individuals
with similar concerns.

5. Interest was expressed in organising a small ‘briefing’ meeting with
policy makers/civil servants along the lines of item 1 in Jonathan Breckon’s list. Sylvia Harvey to pursue.

6. All agreed that the meeting was useful – and that further meetings
would be desirable. There will be a Policy Network meeting at the MeCCSA conference
in January 2010. It would also be desirable to organise a regional
meeting in another part of the country at some future point.

Posted by Salvatore Scifo