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
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