A survey of 340 senior civil servants (SCS), carried out by Policy@Manchester, found that 36% of respondents access academic work a few times a year, while another 36% access it a few times a month.
Dr Carole Talbot, of the University’s business school, said the survey suggests “a significant minority of senior civil servants do not regularly and systematically engage with academics and academic research and expertise”.
Fellow research author Professor Colin Talbot told CSW that some routes of connection between officials and academia have “dried up, partly due to narrowing of focus and resources.” For example, he says that SCS are nowadays less likely to attend academic conferences, and academics are less likely to be involved in training – now provided mainly by private companies.
Government is also less likely to commission research directly from academics, said Talbot: recent LSE research found that most government funding for research goes to private companies and independent bodies.
The most popular way for SCS to access academic work is through research reports and papers: 79% indicated that they use these channels. Newspapers and weekly magazines were second most popular, with 61%, but many civil servants (55%) also directly access academic journals and articles. Talbot noted that this “really surprised” his team because anecdotally they had been told that many departments no longer have access to academic journals.