Dr Alexei Poliakov and Dr Paul Cook

Poliakov Dr Alexei Poliakov and Dr Paul Cook

Dr Alexei Poliakov is an Investigator Scientist at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research Department for Developmental Neurobiology. Alexei leads a team of physicists, mathematicians and developmental biologists to answer one of the most intriguing questions in modern biology: How do cells organise themselves into highly ordered and super-dynamic communities called tissues organs and organisms?

In 2009, Alexei was paired with Dr Paul Cook, Head of Microbiological Food Safety Branch at the Food Standards Agency. Alexei took part in the scheme because of his interest in policy, and was able to shadow Dr Cook at a two-day workshop in the Netherlands:

“I wanted to take part in the scheme as I see clearly the benefits of the engagement of scientists with business and politicians. I understand the importance of correct and timely scientific policies that set the pace and directions for the flow of knowledge from laboratories into business. I think that one of the main barriers to successful interactions is that experimental scientists can be reluctant due to a lack of understanding and appreciation of the importance of policies and regulations.

As part of the scheme I attended a two-day workshop in a small and quiet city in the Netherlands, where 34 scientists and policy-makers discussed the Guidelines on the Application of General principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Viruses in Food. It was a good opportunity to meet scientists and policy-makers from different countries and discuss their personal experience on using science in policy-making and the general role of scientists in society.

I asked Paul what kind of scientific evidence policy-makers are looking for during their daily work on new guidelines, policies, and supporting documents. He advised that reliability, strong statistics, and attention to details are the key elements, which distinguish policy-valuable from story-telling science.

I am very glad that I had his wonderful opportunity to see how scientists contribute to policy-making from within.”

Applying for this scheme

Applications for scientists are now closed. Please email publicaffairs@royalsociety.org for more information.

Format of the scheme

Week in Westminster
Programme of activities for the scientists, including a day with the MP or civil servant.

Reciprocal visits 
A visit to the MP's constituency or the civil servant's office and a visit to the scientist's research facilities.