From Lab Bench to Backbench

An academic from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Integrative Biology will be swapping a lab coat for legislation, when he visits an MP for a ‘week in Westminster’.

Dr Tom Price is visiting Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, at the House of Commons this week as part of a unique ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science.

During his visit Tom will shadow his MP and learn about his work, as well as attending a House of Commons Science and Technology Committee meeting and Prime Minister’s Question Time. He will also meet Professor Sir John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Advisor. The visit will provide Tom with a behind-the-scenes insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of an MP.

Tom said: “As well as finding out what Andrew does in Westminster I will be talking to Andrew about my work on the spread of genetic diseases through insect populations. I’m trying to understand whether these selfish genes could be used to target serious pest species such as the tsetse flies that spread sleeping sickness or mosquitoes that spread malaria.”

Andrew Miller has working experience of science when he was a lab tech at the University of Portsmouth Geology department and is the Chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee.

The Royal Society’s MP-Scientist pairing scheme aims to build bridges between parliamentarians and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for MPs to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy. Over 200 pairs of scientists and MPs have taken part in the scheme since it was launched in 2001.

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society and Hon DSc 2009, who recently opened the University’s Central Teaching Laboratory, said: “We live in a world facing increasing challenges that can only be addressed with a clear understanding of science. From climate change to influenza outbreaks, GM food to nuclear power, our MPs have to make decisions about complex issues that will affect the lives of all those in the UK and, in many cases, more widely throughout the world. This means that MPs and scientists have a responsibility to engage with each other to get the best possible scientific advice into public policy making.

“We set up the Royal Society’s MP Scientist pairing scheme in 2001 to provide the opportunity for MPs and scientists to build long-term relationships with each other and have now organised over two hundred pairings.

“I know many parliamentarians and scientists who have gained from the scheme, and the shaping of public policy can only improve over time as these relationships continue to grow.”

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