Scientists swap pipettes for policy ahead of general election

13 March 2024

Next week (17 – 21 March), 30 UK scientists will swap places with politicians and civil servants for five days ahead of the general election, exploring each other’s worlds as part of the annual Royal Society Pairing Scheme.

The scheme has been running since 2001 and helps to build long term relationships between scientists and politicians, ensuring that policymakers can make informed decisions based on the best scientific evidence.

With a general election expected this year and research and innovation being highlighted as key priorities in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget, the scheme’s mission is more important than ever. 

The week will begin with a parliamentary reception in the House of Commons, with speeches by Greg Clark MP, Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, and Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society. 

Scientists taking part this year are drawn from universities and research institutes across the UK, including Newcastle University, Plymouth Marine Laboratory and Imperial College London. They are paired with parliamentarians including Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Science Minister; Baroness Brown of Cambridge FRS, Chair of HoL S&T Committee; and civil servants from the Department for Education; Energy Security and Net Zero; and Business and Trade.

Over five days, scientists will get a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed, shadowing an MP or parliamentarian to learn about their work. Participants will hear from senior civil servants and parliamentarians on how research findings are used to inform policy making and how they can best share their expertise with policy makers. 

The scheme will continue later in the year when parliamentarians visit their scientist pairs at their home institutions.

Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society, said: 

“Scientific evidence is essential for any government to address many of the global challenges that affect both the UK and world at large, from climate change to the rapid acceleration of AI technologies.

“The pairing scheme was set up in 2001 to help build bridges between scientists and policy makers, providing them with the opportunity to develop long-term relationships to ensure that robust scientific evidence is used to shape public policy. We must continue to strengthen these collaborations to ensure research is translated into policy that improves the lives of all of those in the UK.”