Policy engagement case studies
From protecting freedom of religious belief to exposing the funding of nuclear weapons, the following examples demonstrate our success in engaging with and influencing the policy process.
- Promoting freedom of religious belief
Dr Fabio Petito has influenced policy relating to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) across Europe and North America.
Dr Petito’s work on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in 2015 led to a policy brief [PDF.982KB] produced in collaboration with Policy@Sussex. In 2016, the University and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (IFoRB) co-hosted a policy dialogue event at the House of Lords, attended by policymakers from the United Nations, European Union, and US, British and French governments.
Dr Petito quickly became the ‘go to’ academic expert on FoRB. He was invited to join the APPG, has contributed to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) FoRB toolkit, and was asked by the FCO to develop the FoRB and Foreign Policy Initiative website, which brings together policy recommendations on FoRB from international experts.
In 2018, Petito ran a multi-stakeholder consultation process, leading to a policy report that outlines best practices for promoting an interreligious approach to FoRB issues. Subsequently, he was appointed to Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Panel of Experts on FoRB – part of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He has also worked as a consultant for a German government pilot project; has supported the EU’s Special Envoy for FoRB; and still works closely with the APPG, the FCO and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Shining a light on the UK’s nuclear deterrent
Two Sussex academics have uncovered the role of civilian nuclear power in subsidising nuclear weapons.
In 2016, Professor Andy Stirling and Dr Phil Johnstone published a working paper [PDF.1.9MB], analysing links between the UK military and civilian nuclear sectors. The following year, the pair presented evidence to the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons. They stated that the £19.6bn Hinkley Point nuclear power project would “maintain a large-scale national base of nuclear-specific skills” without which “the costs of UK nuclear submarine capabilities could be insupportable”.
The implication was that Britain’s military nuclear industry was being supported by payments from electricity consumers to the tune of several billions of pounds. This public scrutiny led to a UK government official confirming (for the first time on the public record) the links between the civil and military nuclear sectors.
The researchers also submitted evidence to the 2019 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) inquiry into the financing of energy infrastructure, which influenced parliamentarians to request an inquiry into the nuclear issue.
As a result of the team’s policy engagement work, the issue has moved from being entirely neglected within UK democratic institutions in 2016 to being a live policy issue under increasing scrutiny.
- Exploring the role of talk in teaching about citizenship
Researchers from the School of Media, Arts and Humanities are working closely with policymakers.
The Speaking Citizens project, led by the University of Sussex and funded by the AHRC and ESRC, brings together historians, linguists and social scientists to work with educators. It aims to provide new evidence for how citizenship can be taught through a focus on talk and dialogue.
As well as working with school teachers and with project partners the English Speaking Union, Oracy Cambridge and Voice 21, the researchers act as academic advisers to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Oracy, offering specialist advice and providing evidence for inquiries.
Contact with the APPG was initially made via Senior Research Fellow Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, who is an expert in knowledge exchange between academic and non-academic stakeholders. She attended APPG meetings and worked alongside secretariats, MPs and Lords to host evidence-gathering roundtable discussions and to draft reports.