From lab bench to backbench: University of Bath researchers visit politicians in Westminster
Three researchers from the University of Bath will be learning how their research can inform legislation when they visit the House of Commons for a week in Westminster.
The week (28 November to 2 December) is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Office for Science.
During their visit, the researchers will shadow a parliamentarian or civil servant and learn about their work. As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, the researchers will also attend a mock select committee.
The visit will provide the researchers with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how their research can be used to make evidence-based decisions. It will also give their parliamentarian/civil servant counterpart the opportunity to investigate the science behind their decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.
The week will begin with a reception in Parliament where Professor Brian Cox OBE FRS, will explain why policy makers and researchers must work together to ensure the UK’s excellent science research is used to improve people’s lives and tackle global challenges.
Research influencing policy
Dr Vimal Dhokia, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, will be shadowing Ben Howlett, Conservative MP for Bath and alumnus of the University.
Dr Dhokia commented: “I am excited to be taking part in the Royal Society Pairing scheme, particularly in light of current events related to the BREXIT vote, and the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of £2 billion for research and development.
“I see this as an opportunity to understand the mechanisms of politics and policy making which I can in the future use my research to influence.”
Director of the University’s Institute for Mathematical Innovation, Professor Jonathan Dawes, will be shadowing Greg Vaughan, a senior civil servant in the Government Office for Science.
Professor Dawes said: “I’m greatly looking forward to this opportunity to learn more about the Government Office for Science and its role in supporting executive branches of government and the network of Chief Scientific Advisers.
“The week looks to be extremely busy, with a hugely varied programme of events, from legislative processes to emergency response planning.
“I hope I’m able to emphasise to my paired policymaker Greg Vaughan the breadth of impact of the mathematical sciences, and describe the new opportunities that led to the establishment of the Bath Institute for Mathematical Innovation.”
Dr Sally Adams, Lecturer in Health Psychology, will be paired with Andrew Johnson at the Drug and Alcohol Unit in the Home Office.
Dr Adams said: "I am delighted to be taking part in the Royal Society Pairing Scheme. The scheme reflects my interest as a scientist in providing policy makers with a clear evidence base for making well-informed choices."
"The pairing scheme is an invaluable opportunity to gain insight into how scientific data are used to inform government decision making, policy and legislation development. In particular I am interested in how the Home Office uses evidence to promote the discussion of alcohol-related issues and to make recommendations to the Government and Parliament."
"By taking part in the pairing scheme I hope to improve my understanding of how scientists can work with parliamentarians to ensure government decisions are driven by peer-reviewed, impartial research evidence."
The Royal Society’s pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.
Ben Howlett MP, Greg Vaughan and Andrew Johnson will get hands on experience of their counterpart’s academic research when they visit the University next year.