Advocacy Section

AcadMathSci Consultation Document

3. Advocacy

3.1 One of the priorities for the Academy will be advocacy. The executive summary to the CMS Green Paper set out that: ‘the primary focus of the National Academy will be external advocacy, enhancing connections across the broad mathematical sciences community in order to support and enhance its impact within the UK and beyond.’

3.2 By advocacy, the Academy means, ‘any attempt to influence the decisions of an institutional elite on behalf of a collective interest’ (Jenkins, 1987). The Academy sees the collective interest as that of the mathematical science discipline. By institutional elites, the Academy means decision makers who are in positions of authority over areas which impact mathematical sciences, or where mathematical sciences can help decision makers make better and more impactful decisions, or both. 
[Jenkins J. C. (1987). Nonprofit organizations and political advocacy. In Powell W. W. (Ed.), The nonprofit sector: A research handbook (pp. 296-318). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.]

3.3 The Academy sees advocacy in this context – which is sometimes known as policy advocacy – as including, but not limited to, influencing proposed legislation and policy proposals (and funding decisions) by directly communicating with government officials and elected decision makers, or encouraging others to communicate on that basis. The Academy also sees advocacy as including proactive research into issues which should come under consideration, and the monitoring of policy implementation. On occasions, it will include civic engagement and public education on topics of interest as well.

3.4 The Academy sees decision makers in a wide sense, including the elected governments of all four UK nations, as well as local government, and the officials and policymakers who work in those institutions. The Academy also sees decision makers as including any others in a position of authority, as per the above. This could include, but not be limited to, educational institutions (at all phases); businesses, and other organisations that employ mathematical scientists (whether they are called by that term or not); other organisations and learned societies; and sometimes the general public.

3.5 We want to be ambitious for our level of engagement and our advocacy goals for the Academy. We would like to see changes measured both that benefit the discipline, and to improve public policy, and actions made by decision makers, through the greater expertise contributed by the mathematical sciences community.

3.6 One way of conceptualising our advocacy approach is to think about possible approaches on a 2 x 2 grid. Here, we set out possible engagement that can be described as evidence against values, and collaborative against outsider. Four possible – but deliberately simplified – approaches are summarised here.

3.7 Our fundamental premise is that the Academy will adopt an advocacy approach that is appropriate to the issue in question. What will underpin all our advocacy is a clear headed and ambitious approach to the promotion of the mathematical sciences discipline. It is however also our hypothesis that our default position will probably tend towards a more collaborative, than confrontational approach. Having considered the roles played by other academies, by learned societies and by other advocacy organisations in this space, including those representing other academic disciplines, we are of the view that our advocacy remit – and hence engagement strategy – can best be summarised as:

“We will seek to champion the role of mathematical sciences within public policy; to act as a voice of expertise on major public policy questions in a wide range of areas as well as those within the field of mathematical sciences; to advocate for the contribution of mathematical sciences in advancing wider societal and economic goals; and to provide a way to connect mathematical science experts to governments, policymakers, and officials across the UK.”

3.8 As framed in the policy section of the consultation document, we propose that the focus of the Academy’s agenda should be on both what we term ‘mathematical sciences for policy’ and ‘policy for mathematical sciences’. We start from the premise that the attention and focus of the Academy from an advocacy perspective should be roughly even between these two areas. Though we will focus within the Academy on many important issues within our discipline, including but not limited to education, academic affairs, EDI and knowledge exchange, from an advocacy perspective we will not overly focus on those at the expense of the contribution we will seek to make to wider public policy debates.

3.9 We think it is likely that at any one time that the Academy will have expertise around, and capacity to engage in, around 5 to 8 ongoing policy and advocacy issues, and around 2 to 3 more topical issues, based on expectations of resources for the Academy assumed in the finance section. Some of the initial suggested priorities are listed in the policy section above and in the education section below.

3.10 Our view is that there are five tests for whether an issue should be one on which the Academy speaks or engages in broader policy and advocacy, plus a sixth (internal) test of internal coordination. These proposed tests are:

An ‘expertise’ testDoes the Academy, or the mathematical science community, have unique or leading expertise in this area, which would contribute to betterment of public policy and/or decisions made by the decision makers in this area?
A ‘topicality and balance’ testThe aim is for the Academy to have a ‘balanced portfolio’ of issues which are topical, and ones which are not. To determine topicality, is this issue one on which decisions are being made now, or being framed, such that there is an opportunity to add expertise for immediate benefit to decision makers (and hence to public policy)? And whether it is topical or not, does it support an overall balance of the Academy’s work?
An ‘importance’ testGiven the opportunity costs, is this issue one which – in the judgement of the Academy – is sufficiently important that the mathematical science community engages (either important in general, or to the community specifically)?
A ‘substantive’ testIs the contribution that the Academy and the mathematical science community can make, significant or material or substantive to the decisions that may be made?
A ‘value added’ testWould a contribution from the Academy add value to other existing or planned engagements and inputs (from the mathematical science community more broadly, or other learned societies, or other third parties generally)? Is that value added demonstrable with the community, and can it have impact quickly?
A ‘consistency’ testDoes this work build on – and does it not contradict – other workstreams within the Academy (especially on education, practitioner affairs, and knowledge exchange)?


Q4. Do you agree with our broad approach towards advocacy (set out in Section 3)?

Q5. Do you agree with these proposed principles (the 6 tests outlined in 3.10)) for the Academy’s advocacy work?

Q6. What do you see as the best communications avenues to reach you and the other mathematical scientists in your field/sector/community?