Scientists spend a week in parliament for Royal Society Pairing Scheme

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Three UK DRI researchers took part in the 2022 Royal Society Pairing Scheme, an opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the inner workings of parliament and insight into how policy is shaped.

Each year, the pairing scheme gives 30 research scientists the opportunity to shadow UK parliamentarians and civil servants for a week in parliament, attending meetings and events.

Dr Cara Croft (UK DRI Emerging Leader at UCL), Dr Dayne Beccano-Kelly (UK DRI Group Leader at Cardiff) and Dr Sarah Marzi (UK DRI Emerging Leader at Imperial) visited parliament for the scheme’s ‘Week in Westminster’ last week.

Throughout the week, the researchers attended talks, Q&As and met with MPs directly as well as attending select committee meetings – groups that are set up to look at specific topics like science and technology.

A really positive take home has been that it seems that stakeholders on both sides want to come together at the interface of science and policy for the greater good. Dr Cara Croft, UK DRI Emerging Leader at UCL

Of her experience, Dr Marzi said:

We got the chance to attend different parliamentary proceedings, including Select Committee meetings and All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). I was extremely fortunate to spend a day in parliament with the Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Digital, Chi Onwurah. The sheer breadth and number of topics, events and tasks she covers in a day was incredibly impressive. Overall, it was a brilliant experience!

One aim of the scheme is to help scientists understand how their research can be used to influence policy, and how to use their expertise to better inform and engage governmental decisions related to science.

Reflecting on her week in Westminster, Dr Croft said:

“A really positive take home has been that it seems that stakeholders on both sides want to come together at the interface of science and policy for the greater good. It has been fascinating to see how the policy world operates differently but also similarly in that in the end both policymakers and scientists want to make people’s lives better and serve the people in our country.”

Pairing Scheme 2

The scheme encourages researchers to use their newfound knowledge of parliamentary proceedings to engage with government and help enact change.

Dr Beccano-Kelly found that taking part in the scheme inspired him to engage more with policy makers in future. He said:

“Throughout the week, we learnt about how to influence policy and about the mechanics of policy design, as well as gaining a greater understanding of the workings of parliament in general. I am encouraged to work with government in an increased capacity and will look to provide my expertise as well as engage with things like the select committees to provide evidence and create change. I found the scheme a really worthwhile experience, it was great to connect with MPs, and we gained lots of valuable insight.”

Dr Croft added:

“Going forwards I remain optimistic that, as a scientist, if you are persistent and can convey clear solutions to problems that affect society, then parliamentarians and other policy makers really want to hear from you to help shape future policies.”

To find out how you can get involved with the scheme in future, please visit the Royal Society website or contact UK DRI Public Affairs Manager Olivia Marshall.

Article published: 24 March 2022

Image credits: Dr Dayne Beccano Kelly and Dr Sarah Marzi

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