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Our achievements: Giving the research community the freedom to influence government

CaSE is celebrating a selection of its achievements from the last decade. In 2016 we moved into action when a new anti-lobbying clause threatened to restrict the work of scientists and researchers.

CaSE’s strength: The importance of being an impartial and trusted voice

A new anti-lobbying clause threatened to restrict scientists and researchers

In February 2016 the Cabinet Office published details of a new anti-lobbying clause. The clause would prevent future recipients of government grants from using research generated by that grant to lobby or influence Parliament. It was created in response to controversaries around the behaviour of certain charities and was an attempt by the Cabinet Office to ensure public money given to an organisation from government was used for the public good.

However, many scientists and researchers in universities and research institutes were also the recipients of public grants and would often come to conclusions that might lead them to attempt to influence government. The unintended consequence of this new clause threatened to prevent any scientist or researcher in receipt of a grant from using their work to better inform policy-makers and politicians.

CaSE took a soft approach in our conversations with government

Initial media coverage suggested that scientists were being ‘gagged’ by government, and while CaSE could have encouraged this narrative, we felt it was more effective to take a ‘behind the scenes’ approach and hold a dialogue with government on this issue.

After the clause was announced, we immediately contacted the Science Minister’s office to identify who the key players were in this complex process. After holding initial conversations with officials to raise our concerns over the clause, we then held back to give government time to respond. We realised that pushing too hard on this issue risked polarising the situation and hardening the government’s attitude to our calls. Instead we took a collaborative approach and worked closely with the Cabinet Office, the Science Minister, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to find a solution.

Our impartiality was a key asset

What government really valued about CaSE was our independence on this issue. Although we were trying to inform and advise on the anti-lobbying clause, we do not receive grants from government and were therefore not seen to win or lose from the outcome of this situation. Our impartiality and freedom from conflict of interest was a crucial factor in making us a trusted stakeholder.

CaSE also worked in conjunction with others across the sector, including Parliamentary Select Committees, to successfully influence different parts of government. We also wrote a joint letter to the Cabinet Office Minister with the Campaign for Social Science to seek clarity on the implementation of the clause and register our concerns.

Despite an initial win, we knew that a bigger positive outcome was needed

As a result of these combined efforts, the Cabinet Office announced a pause in April 2016 to reconsider the anti-lobbying clause and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills was then able to create an exemption for researchers receiving grants from the department.

Despite this win, CaSE knew that this was a bigger issue and that exemptions for researchers needed to cover public grants from all government departments. We continued to work hard with the Cabinet Office and finally in December 2016 they published 10 new standards in government grants, which were easily met by scientists and researchers in receipt of public money. This enabled the Cabinet Office to secure the outcome they were looking for, while allowing the scientific and research community to continue their vital work in influencing Parliament and government.