From Lab Bench to Westminster

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Dr Will Harrison from Swansea University’s College of Engineering will be swapping his workstation for legislation, when he spends time with David Bacon the head of Science Division at the Welsh Government and visits the House of Commons for a “Week in Westminster”

Will HarrisonCommencing Monday 2 December, the incentive is part of a unique ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science.

During the scheme Will will spend time with his civil servant pair and learn about his work, as well as attending a number of talks on “science in government” and meeting Professor David MacKay FRS, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) while in Westminster.  The scheme will provide Will with a behind-the-scenes insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of MPs and civil servants.

Will Harrison said: “I am thoroughly looking forward to spending time with David at the Welsh Government and visiting Westminster with other researchers from around the UK. I see this as an excellent opportunity to learn more about science policy and how it is formed and I hope to build lasting relationships within government and the science community.”

The Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for civil servants to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy. Since 2001 over 200 scientists have been paired with MPs and civil servants.

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society said: “We live in a world facing increasing challenges that can only be addressed with a clear understanding of science.  From climate change to influenza outbreaks, GM food to nuclear power, our MPs and civil servants have to make decisions about complex issues that will affect the lives of all those in the UK and, in many cases, more widely throughout the world.  This means that MPs, civil servants and scientists have a responsibility to engage with each other to get the best possible scientific advice into public policy making.

We set up the Royal Society’s MP Scientist pairing scheme in 2001 to provide the opportunity for MPs, civil servants and scientists to build long-term relationships with each other and have now organised over two hundred pairings. 

I know many parliamentarians and scientists who have gained from the scheme, and the shaping of public policy can only improve over time as these relationships continue to grow.”

Further information about the Royal Society Pairing Scheme, as well as case studies, can be found at the following link: