Organised by the Royal Society of Biology on behalf of the science and engineering community, this annual event reverses the format of a Parliamentary Select Committee, so that MPs have to answer questions rather than ask them. This unique scenario gives a selection of early career scientists the opportunity to experience the dynamics of policy making.
Roster of panel members:
Panel 1: Sam Gyimah MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
Panel 2: Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Panel 3: Stephen Metcalfe MP and Science & Technology Select Committee colleagues
Panel 4: Dr Rupert Lewis, Director, Government Office for Science
We asked two of our ECS members about their experience of the event.
‘It was a pleasure to participate in Voice of the Future 2018 in Porticus House at Westminister Parliament.
‘Diversity and inclusion were common themes among the questions raised throughout the different sessions.
‘Issues discussed included STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) participation from those from less represented races; adequate provision for those with disabilities to thrive in STEMM based careers to the practicalities of post-doctoral work for women and families, it was very reassuring to hear these types of discussions taking place at Parliament!
‘On a personal note, it was exciting to get to question Dr Rupert Lewis, Director of the Government Office for Science on behalf of the Society for Applied Microbiology on what is being done to address the urgent issue of antimicrobial resistance broadly and then to have further discussions on more specific solutions.
‘Perceptions of Science and Engineering as ‘hard’ and not ‘caring’ were addressed and disproved by Chi Owunrah. She made a case that they were some of the most caring and rewarding professions available for the advances they bring to society, particularly in the area of health.
‘Additionally, the lack of involvement of scientists in politics was discussed, with encouragement for those from these disciplines to consider political careers.
‘On the whole, as a young scientist working in industry it was a privilege to attend and participate in this prestigious event and to be spurred on to engage with politics, knowing our views can shape and ultimately improve society.’
‘The variety of questions was astounding, covering everything from antibiotic resistance to reducing plastic waste. There were questions on the greater issues around science including Brexit and education policy.
I thought it was really good to hear multiple questions demanding more equality in science, both for female and ethnic minority scientists, but also for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
‘It was good hearing MPs thoughts on improving support for early career scientists who have to keep moving between cities and short term contracts, which is definitely something worrying me as I look to start my own career.
‘We also had the chance to talk to the clerk for the Science and Technology Select Committee, to understand the role of the committee in parliament and how it influences MPs when making new legislation. There was a very interesting discussion with some of the members of the committee about their thoughts about the number of scientists in parliament, where they explained why evidence based policy isn’t always the right way to go (whether you agree is another thing entirely!).’
You can watch a recording of the event on Parliament TV