Skip to content

How research can seize the polling day

Dr Alicia Greated

CaSE Executive Director

This post first appeared in Research Fortnight on 1st May 2024

General election calls for a unified voice in tune with the public, says Alicia Greated

A general election presents an amazing opportunity to make an impact. The Campaign for Science and Engineering (Case), and its predecessor Save British Science, have advocated for the needs and priorities of UK research and development in each of the nine general elections held since our inception in 1986. This year, which looks likely to include a tenth, we will be as active as ever in representing the sector.

I am pleased to have started as executive director of Case at an exciting time. The wheels of change never stop turning in government departments and parliament, but during a general election those wheels run even faster. I am determined to make sure that as an organisation and as a sector we seize on the chance this presents to embed our priorities into the national political discourse.

Broad church

Something that first attracted me to Case was the depth and breadth of its membership, and the organisation’s ability to be truly inclusive in who we engage. The R&D sector is incredibly diverse—from huge engineering projects to microbiology studies performed in labs around the country, and everything else in between and around, including the arts and humanities. 

This diversity is a phenomenal strength, and one which I am proud that Case is able to represent. When we, researchers and their organisations speak with a unified voice, people listen.

Case is striving to help the R&D sector find this single voice. Over the past few months, the team has been working with partners from our membership and beyond to build a united front of advocacy and campaigning in the run up to the election. 

Attitudes to R&D

This effort has drawn on Case’s research into public attitudes towards R&D as a political priority, in an attempt to ensure that advocacy not only represents the sector’s priorities but also responds to the concerns of voters.

A great example of how the sector can pull in a single direction has been the recent call from funders, learned societies, national academies and universities for the UK to be a leading country in the G7 group of wealthy nations on R&D investment. This unifying statement, coordinated by Case, shows the shared core principles of our sector. R&D is the foundation of the UK’s prosperity and wellbeing, and as a sector we want to see all political parties commit to investing in and nurturing a culture of research and innovation.

Case manifesto

The ethos of this joint statement underpins Case’s approach to the general election. Recently, we published our Manifesto for Science and Engineering. This sets out why and how the next government should commit to using research and innovation to improve lives and livelihoods. 

Each aspect of this manifesto is backed by what we know the public want from R&D. They want to see government investment (supported by 70 per cent of those we polled), they want workforce development (79 per cent want the UK to train and develop more scientists and innovators), and they see R&D as an asset to their community (66 per cent would support an R&D lab being built in their local area). 

Such insights into public attitudes are a vital tool. By listening to the public’s opinions around R&D and then pairing this with our policy recommendations, we’re able to help decision-makers understand what actions are needed and how those choices will land with voters.

Our manifesto forms part of the campaign of political engagement we are rolling out this year. As part of this, we aim to forge connections and build relationships with the next cohort of MPs, in what looks likely to be a period of great change in the Westminster ranks. 

Our team is engaging with potential parliamentary candidates about the public’s appetite for more R&D in their constituencies and how they can leverage that support through the commitments we are calling for. Over the coming months, we are also planning a series of events and developing a suite of resources to help the sector engage with the public and politicians before and during the election campaign.

Opportunity knocks

We have a huge opportunity ahead of us—an opportunity to embed support for R&D among policymakers, an opportunity to drive positive change and, most importantly, an opportunity to bring everybody with a stake in UK R&D into an exciting conversation about our shared future. 

Alicia Greated is the new executive director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering

This article also appeared in Research Fortnight