Reflections on the Sheffield University Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures Workshop in Westminster

We held an “Introduction to Science Policy” workshop in Westminster on the 26th April 2017 for scholars from Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures. This workshop was our first event in collaboration with Parliament’s outreach Service (Parliament UK). The objective of the workshop was to give the participating researchers some understanding of the policy-making processes in Government and Parliament and of how to influence policy.

The Speakers

Ms Naomi Saint (Universities Programme Manager for Parliament’s Outreach Service), gave an introduction to the UK Parliament and explained its structure and the roles of MPs and the Members of the House of Lords.  She explained the various functions of Parliament ranging from Law making, and scrutinising Government, to being the highest Court in the land. Her presentation included an interactive quiz, which tested the audience’s knowledge of Parliament.

Mr Paul Blomfield MP (MP for Sheffield Central) gave a more detailed account of the work of Members of Parliament. This included the stages involved in the creation of new legislation or regulation and the scrutiny of Government policy. As a representative of a large student population, with previous experience of working at the University of Sheffield, Paul was able to explain his work in a manner relevant for the audience. He stressed that MP’s need specialist information and expert opinions from outside Parliament when considering matters on the Parliamentary agenda. He encouraged participants to get to know their local MP and to offer specialist help when matters within their areas of interest are being debated in Parliament.

Mr Andrew Miller (former MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, and a former Chairman of both the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee and the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee) gave an account of the role of Select Committees, focusing on the Science and Technology Select Committee. He outlined the Committee’s remit which includes the scrutiny of potential new Government policies and also exploring areas impacting on the science base where new, or altered, legislation is needed. The committee also examines the workings of the Research Councils, new incumbents in public sector roles, and investigates the impact of major science-based company mergers on the UK’s research capacity.

Andrew emphasised the importance of inquiry evidence provided by individuals and groups within the STEM community.

Dr Marsha Quallo-Wright (Head of Corporate Services, Government Office for Science) explained the work of the Government Departments and the Civil Service in the creation and implementation of policy. She explained how the Government obtains and uses scientific advice in the formulation of policies. She emphasised the work of the Government Office for Science and the advice it gives to the Prime Minister in, for example, the event of international disasters and their potential impact on the UK. She also mentioned the importance of having scientists, engineers and technologists in Government departments.

Dr Stephen Benn (Director of Parliamentary Affairs, the Royal Society of Biology) described the role and activities of the Scientific Learned Societies in responding to Governmental and Parliamentary inquiries and their calls for evidence. He talked about the interaction of these bodies with politicians in the provision of specialist advice. He stressed the important role that the STEM community and its professional bodies should have in these processes. He also mentioned the activities that are being organised by the Learned Societies in Westminster during STEM week.

The case study

The formal part of the workshop concluded with a case study to illustrate how the STEM community can provide advice during policy processes and how such advice may influence outcomes.

Dr Michael Elves (Chairman of Newton’s Apple and a former Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee) discussed the Select Committee’s examination of the problem of Light Pollution and its adverse impact upon Astronomy. This Inquiry stressed the lack of government actions to limit the effect of light pollution or give effective guidance for planning authorities in this matter. The Committee was aided in its deliberations by evidence provided by both academic and amateur astronomers and ‘Dark Skies’ campaign groups. An outcome of the Inquiry was not only an increased awareness of the issue but also improved regulatory measures and new legislation making some forms of light pollution a Statutory Nuisance.  This case study also highlighted the length of time it that it can take for scientific advice to influence new legislation.

In addition to questions to the individual speakers after their presentations, there was also a general discussion at the end of the formal presentations which ranged over a number of areas and there was good participation by members of the audience.

We were pleased to welcome Dr Jonny Wentworth from POST who joined us for this workshop.

Some conclusions from Michael W. Elves, Chairman of Newton’s Apple

From the feedback obtained from the participants in this workshop, and particularly from the comments provided, it is clear that the participants found the event informative, useful and enjoyable.  

When Newton’s Apple was established the intention was to help younger members of the STEM community (research students and early career academics) to understand the processes by which policy and legislation are made, and how these can be influenced and improved by good advice. It is encouraging therefore that the majority of the participants in this workshop said that their understanding of these processes had been improved as a result of the workshop. The motivation for many of the students attending this workshop was a desire to understand how they can influence policy.

Participant comments

“The Newton’s Apple Books are informative and useful.”

“I enjoyed the case study showing an example of how science contribution and Select Committee work had an impact for astronomy and light pollution.”

“I really enjoyed the case study by Dr Elves as it shows a real example of where science changed policy. Hope for the future!”

“If we as scientists don’t provide evidence we cannot expect policy to be based on it.”

“I liked the talk by Paul Blomfield as this was my first interaction with an MP.”

“It was useful to have real-life examples to bring the processes and institutions to life.”

 

Westminster workshop 26th February 2015

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, 

Committee Room 07

13.30 – 17.00 

26th February 2015

  • Have you ever wondered if, and how, scientists and their research can influence government science policy?
  • How can scientists help prevent budget cuts, increase funding and improve the public standing of science?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy processes and the methods by which you can contribute to them.  You will also have the opportunity to put your questions to the people who work regularly on science policy issues.

The Workshop is suitable for postgraduate and PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and those whose work role would benefit by a knowledge of the science-into-policy processes.

Workshop structure:

  • An introduction to science policy – Presentation by Dr Michael Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple.
  • The guest panellists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists can communicate more effectively with policy makers.
  • Stephen Metcalfe MP, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock,. Member of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee
  • Dr Monica Darnborough, Formerly Director of Biotechnology, Department of Trade and Industry, and a former civil servant in the Cabinet Office
  • Dr Stephen Benn, Director of Parliamentary Affairs, Society of Biology
  • Discussion – Participants will have a chance to put their questions to the panellists on science policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

To book places on the workshop download an application form and return via email to michael.elves@btinternet.com.

NOTE; There are a limited number of places available, so reserve your place early!

December Westminster Workshop

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

House of Commons, Palace of Westminster, 

Committee Room 18

14.00 – 16.45 

10th December 2014

  • Have you ever wondered if, and how, scientists and their research can influence government science policy?
  • How can scientists help prevent budget cuts, increase funding and improve the public standing of science?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy processes and the methods by which you can contribute to them.  You will also have the opportunity to put your questions to the people who work regularly on science policy issues.

The Workshop is suitable for postgraduate and PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and those whose work role would benefit by a knowledge of the science-into-policy processes.

Workshop structure:

An introduction to science policy – Presentation by Dr Michael Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple.

The guest panelists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists can communicate more effectively with policy makers.

  • Dr Julian Huppert MP, MP for Cambridge, Member of Home Affairs Select Committee.
  • Jon Elliot, Head of Science Profession, Advice and Leadership Unit, Government Office for Science.
  • Andrew Crudgington, Director, External Affairs and Strategy, Institution of Civil Engineers

Discussion – Participants will have a chance to put their questions to the panelists on science policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

To book places on the workshop download an application form and return via email to michael.elves@btinternet.com.

NOTE; There are a limited number of places available, so reserve your place early!

Workshops for Universities: A day at Durham University

Today, Newton’s Apple gave a workshop for staff and students at Durham University. In addition to the open workshops in Westminster, we regularly run workshops that are commissioned by Universities. Every so often, it is good to capture the action. This blog post contains some of the highlights in pictures.

2014-07-17 09.34.25

Our Chairman, Dr Michael Elves, giving an overview of science policy processes.

2014-07-17 10.05.20

Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, giving and overview of Science in Parliament. This included some fascinating insights into the work of Select Committees.

2014-07-17 10.47.18

Chris DarbyHead of Energy and Earth Resources, Government Office for Science, explaining the complex web of Government Departments that use scientific evidence.

2014-07-17 16.31.57

The panel debate in full swing, including insights on the importance of learned societies and professional bodies from Dr Stephen Benn and a special case study from Dr Ian Gibson on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (2008).

Read more about Newton’s Apple workshops for Universities here.

December Westminster Workshop

NEWTON’S APPLE FOUNDATION

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

12th December 2013
Committee Room 10,

House of Commons, Westminster, 15.30-18.00

  • Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?
  • Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

Workshop Structure;

The maximum group size is 30 and workshops run for 2 hours.  The workshop entails;

An introduction to Science Policy – Presentation by Dr Michael Elves, Chairman of Newton’s Apple, former Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee; includes booklets explaining the field of Science Policy and how Policy is made.

  • Science in Parliament – Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee
  • Science in GovernmentSarah Haywood,  Deputy Director, Europe and Participation Policy, Labour Markets Directorate, BIS
  • The Role of the Learned Societies:  Connecting with Policy; from research to the    real world – Dr Beth Taylor, Director of Communications & External Relations, Institute of Physics.

The guest panellists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists and engineers can communicate their research to policy makers.

Discussion; Participants will have the opportunity to pose their questions to the panellists on science and engineering policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

This is a free Workshop. Applications or should be made on by downloading and completing the application form as soon as possible.

 

Introduction to Science Policy workshops for winter 2013-14

NEWTON’S APPLE

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

  • Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?
  • Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

There are a number of workshops coming up:

  • November 8th 2013- Institute for Cancer Research, Sutton
  • November 12th 2013- University of Reading.
  • December 12th 2013 – Palace of Westminster*
  • January 15th 2014 – Palace of Westminster*
  • February 17th 2014 – University College London

The Westminster workshops are open to any scientists interested in learning more about science policy. If you wish to attend, please download and complete the application form.

For more information on the format and content of the workshops, please see our workshops page.

February workshop in Westminster

NEWTON’S APPLE

AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE POLICY

28th February 2013
Committee Room 11,

House of Commons, Westminster, 15.45-18.00

  • Have you ever wondered how the regulatory and policy processes work?
  • Do you want to know how your research could be used to inform public policy?
  • Would you like to contribute to the decisions that shape science and society in the future?

This ‘Introduction to Science Policy’ workshop will give you the chance to find out more about the policy process and the methods by which you can contribute to it.  The workshop will also give you the chance to put your questions to people who work with science, engineering and policy.

Workshop Structure;

The maximum group size is 30 and workshops run for 2 hours.  The workshop entails;

  • An introduction to Science Policy – Presentation by Dr Michael Elves, Chairman, Newton’s Apple Foundation; includes booklets explaining the field of Science Policy and how Policy is made.
  • Science in Parliament – Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee
  • Science in GovernmentChris Fleming , Head of Research Community Issues, Government Office for Science
  • The Role of the Learned Societies: Connecting with Policy; from research to the real world – Katharine Richardson,Head of Communications and Membership, British Pharmacological Society

The guest panellists will provide information from their own unique perspective on ways in which scientists and engineers can communicate their research to policy makers.

Discussion; Participants will have the opportunity to pose their questions to the panellists on science and engineering policy issues and how the science-into-policy process can be improved.

This is a free Workshop

Please Note: This Workshop is fully booked