Professor Deborah Gill from the Radcliffe Department of Medicine and Dr Luke Jostins-Dean from the Kennedy Institute at the University of Oxford swapped lab coats for legislation at the House of Commons for a week in Westminster. The week (26 - 30 November) is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Science & Engineering (GSE) profession.
During her visit, Deborah, who is a Professor of Gene Medicine, and Co-Director of the Gene Medicine Research Group, shadowed Tony Whitney, senior policy advisor for Public Engagement with Science for the Department of Business, Innovation and Strategy. Dr Jostins-Dean shadowed local MP for Oxford East, Annaliese Dodds.
As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, the two researchers attended a mock Select Committee.
The visit provided the Oxford academics with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how their research can be used to make evidence-based decisions. It also gave the politicians the opportunity to investigate the science behind their decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.
Professor Gill said: “Science is a shared endeavour in society and communicating with the public is crucial to agreeing future research directions. In my research, using gene technologies, responsible public engagement builds trust and transparency. The Royal Society pairing scheme is a fantastic opportunity to see this in action.”
Senior policy advisor Tony Whitney will get hands on experience of Professor Gill’s work, which includes developing gene therapy for lung conditions such as cystic fibrosis, in a reciprocal visit next year. Researchers at the University of Oxford’s Radcliffe Department of Medicine also hope to learn more about engaging the public with their work during his visit.
The Royal Society’s pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.