Scientists debate with politicians on Parliamentary Links Day

30 June 2015

People from more than 20 scientific organisations were among an invited audience that converged on Westminster on 23 June for Parliamentary Links Day, an annual event which this year had the theme of Science and the New Parliament.

Nicola Blackwood MP
Credit: Society of Biology

The event is held to foster dialogue between scientists and members of both Houses of Parliament and is organised by the Society of Biology on behalf of a number of bodies including the Institute of Physics and other organisations working in the fields of the sciences, engineering, and mathematics.

On the day there was standing-room only in the Atlee Suite of Portcullis House  as MPs, scientists and others debated the value of science in the UK and internationally. The discussion was also opened up to the audience.

In a debate chaired by Stephen Metcalfe MP on the national value of science, Liam Byrne, shadow minister for universities, science and skills, spoke about the need to provide not just ring-fencing but sustainable funding for science and to invest in knowledge rather than focusing on short-term results.

In a keynote address, Nicola Blackwood MP, the first female chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee (pictured) said it was important to ensure that all MPs had access to scientific expertise, even if they did not have a professional scientific background.

There were also keynote addresses from Lord Selbourne, chair of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, and Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, president-elect of the Royal Society, who highlighted the importance of international visas for scientists and engineers. If these were hard to obtain in the UK, people would go elsewhere and the country would lose its scientific status and skills, he said.

In a panel discussion on the international value of science, astronomer and former IOP president Prof. Dame Jocelyn Burnell gave a warning about looking after the Earth and its finite resources. We have to take care of the planet we have got because if we don’t “it’s a long way to the next one”, she said.

The day was introduced by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, Chi Onwurah MP and the new minister for universities and science, Jo Johnson MP.