It was another packed room for this year’s Parliamentary Links Day, organised by the Royal Society of Biology on behalf of the science and engineering community.
The day sees a number of keynotes and panel discussions between policymakers, politicians, researchers and sector leaders, with this year focusing specifically on “science and new frontiers.”
Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, gave an animated welcome to kick off proceedings, and highlighted the need to continue to promote the link between the STEM community and Parliament. Bercow also acknowledged the changes and challenges if Brexit goes ahead, and the need to maintain relationships with scientists in the EU.
Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, gave the first of several keynote addresses, discussing how the evidenced based, rational, logical people attending Links Day demonstrates the strength we have in the UK. A former engineer herself, Onwurah has consistently advocated for the importance of science in policymaking and the need for more investment in science.
Onwurah explained how she is a firm believer of science for science’s sake and the need for science and technology to be accessible and reflect the diversity of our nation.
The first panel session, chaired by Stephen Metcalfe MP of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, focused on the successes in science. Success stories discussed included the benefits of proton beam therapy, healthcare engineering, space exploration and research into healthy aging and nutrition.
Professor Sanjeev Gupta from Imperial College London even brought along a 3D printed models of the ‘eyes’ of the next Mars rover; an amazing, visual insight into the research being conducted by UK researchers on whole other planets hundreds of thousands of miles away.
The next keynote speaker was Rt Hon Sir Norman Lamb MP, chair of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology. Lamb stressed that the importance of scientists involved in decision making, and thanked the scientific community for working to develop solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges.
The second panel session, chaired by Carol Monaghan MP, focused on policies for success, with discussions covering the need for more evidence submitted from outside of the ‘golden triangle’ of the South of England, the need to collate expertise in decision making, and the need for good relationships between the Government and devolved powers.
Two bold requests were put forward to Government by panellist Dr Sarah Main; for investment into the academic science base, and for the Government to create a comprehensive, fully-budgeted plan to further invest in skills and infrastructure.
The final keynote was from Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. He gave updates on Brexit, immigration and the comprehensive spending review and how they will effect scientific research.
Dr Stephen Benn, director of parliamentary affairs for the RSB, closed the day and thanked attendees noting that Parliamentary Links Day was mentioned in the House of Commons by Chi Onwurah MP as “celebrating science in Parliament and the UK’s world-leading position as a science nation.”
Parliamentary Links Day 2019 was a celebration of the successes of scientific community and demonstrated the diversity of research being conducted in the UK. The day also highlighted just how important it is that the dialogue continues between policy makers and the scientific community.
It was especially rewarding to hear from senior ministers, such as Chi Onwurah, Chris Skidmore and Sir Norman Lamb, on how they recognize the importance of scientists and how their expertise is essential in government-making decisions.
It was also fascinating to hear the impact UK-based science is having on a global scale; the successes in UK science are not reported enough, so it was really enjoyable to hear throughout the session how the UK is contributing to pushing the frontiers of understanding.
As Onwurah succinctly said in her keynote: “Parliament is a stronger body because of the scientists present today.”
Parliamentary Links day acts as a reminder of the intrinsic value science has to decision makers, but also the need to ensure dialogue is always ongoing between researchers and politicians.
Images and updates from the day can be found on the RSB’s twitter moments.