Professor Geoff Laurent was an acclaimed scientist and globally renowned world class researcher on every aspect of respiratory health. He was inspirational, whether on the sporting field (football, golf, cycling to name but a few) or in a lab surrounded by the latest technology, his curiosity and intellect were infectious. Geoff completed his Bachelor of Science degree with first class honours at the University of Western Australia (UWA) in 1974, and his PhD in 1978.
What does the policy community look like from the other end of the telescope? In academia, assumptions abound: that evidence speaks for itself; that policy levers are linear and in abundance; and that political will is a given if the evidence is robust in itself. Here, Stephen Meek, formerly from Whitehall and now heading up a major policy institute, probes further and paints a highly nuanced picture of the practice of policymaking. His observations will help academics refine what the challenge of policy engagement actually is. Shamit Saggar
Perhaps universities have been underestimating their potential strengths in shaping public policy? It seems like a strange assertion. The grounds are based on understanding the rise of university policy institutes: how able are they in safeguarding independence and trust, delineating roles and operating nimbly in synch with policy cycles? Bobby Duffy, new-ish to academia, reflects here on this initial spell heading up the Policy Institute at King’s, London. Shamit Saggar
Research-led universities have often stood in the shadows of modern thinktanks in influencing policy agendas nationally and internationally. Until now. The past few years have seen the rapid growth of university ‘policy shops’ of various kinds, many of which have successfully begun to shape policy thinking and policy design. What lies behind this turnaround? Patrick Diamond, a former special advisor and now an academic political scientist, sheds light on the story in the United Kingdom, and posits that the future looks promising for university policy engagement. Shamit Saggar
What about efforts at counter-radicalisation in societies with a prevailing commitment to managing social, ethnic and religious diversity? This should involve operationalising pluralist ideas so as to address sources of alienation. Singapore’s mosque-based educational policy program is examined here by Rizwana Abdul Azeez. She argues this program falls short, serving to minoritise Islam and the country’s Muslims with potential unintended consequences. Shamit Saggar
De-radicalisation is a broad term that comprises many ideas and practical actions. It is important to examine what is involved at a more granular level and here Raafia Raees Khan describes a specific, multi-faceted program in Pakistan’s Swat Valley in the country’s far north. There may be scope for policy learning and borrowing for other countries, including multi-ethnic, multicultural societies such as Australia. Shamit Saggar
The nature of radicalisation is changing rapidly. The phenomenon is increasingly atomised, nested in grievances, motives and everyday lives that are difficult to penetrate for policymakers. Here Michele Grossman examines these shifts and the perceived asymmetry between Islamist-inspired and far-right violent extremism. She concludes that a credible strategy to tackle these challenges relies, more than ever, on community based responses alongside criminal justice ones. Shamit Saggar
Radicalisation in contemporary Tunisia has emerged as an important flashpoint, spilling out of the Arab Spring. The impacts have been felt across the Middle East and Europe, and most notably the rise of ISIS. Leila Ben Mcharek looks here at the radicalisation of Tunisian youth and the way in which the energy of the original revolution became diverted towards jihadist militancy. The example contains important lessons about the spread of extremism through deliberate and non-deliberate forces. Shamit Saggar
Evidence about Islamist-inspired radicalisation and violence
- Shamit Saggar
Almost two decades on from 9/11 a substantial body of research knowledge has been gathered about the nature of Islamist-inspired radicalisation and violence in western countries. This contains many rich points of relevance to policymakers, and quite a lot that is not so obviously useful. So what is known and what insights for policy have resulted?
There are three areas in which there have been important breakthroughs in the evidence base informing policy formulation.