Week at Westminster for scientist
A scientist from Lancaster University has shadowed his local MP at the House of Commons in order to gain an insight into the political process.
Dr Jim Wild spent a week at the House of Commons shadowing Ben Wallace, MP for Lancaster and Wyre, as part of a scheme organised by The Royal Society.
The aim is to improve communication between researchers and the MPs who decide the funding of science and technology in the UK.
Dr Wild said: “It was a real privilege to get access to places that you wouldn’t normally have access to and the whole experience was very empowering.I came down here being sceptical about the political process but I was impressed with how hard MPs work. They go from lobby meeting to briefing to debate to committee and it really is frenzied. I came away with a sense that democracy is really taking place there and everyone can have an input into what goes on if you know where to start.”
Dr Wild, who is a space scientist, sat in on Science and Technology Committees in the House of Commons and got the chance to watch Prime Minister’s Questions.He said the experience had given him an insight into how to communicate the importance of scientific research to the wider world.
“If you want to get your message across, you have got to be prepared to do it quickly and to be concise and to the point because MPs don’t have a lot of time. They are the ones who ultimately control science funding so it’s important that scientists get our message across, not just to MPs but to the taxpayer who’s funding the research.”
He said the experience helped him understand the way in which scientific research is fed into the public arena.
“It made me feel that I can influence the next investigation of the Science and Technology Committee which is looking at policy in my own area - space.And now I know where to go to find reports and who to talk to so the whole experience has been very positive.”
Earlier this year, Mr Wallace visited campus to see Dr Wild at his office in the Department of Communications Systems at InfoLab21.During his visit to the University, Mr Wallace said he was happy to help promote the University which has brought such huge economic benefits to his constituency.
Dr Wild now plans to spend a day at Mr Wallace’s constituency office attending meetings on local issues and visiting schools.