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From lab bench to backbench

Posted on 30 November 2016

A University of York academic will be swapping the lab bench for the backbench when she visits the House of Commons this week.

Prof Jane Hill (left) at Parliament with Rachael Maskell MP.

Professor Jane Hill, from the Department of Biology, will shadow the York Central MP Rachael Maskell , Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The initiative is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Office for Science.

The  pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.

Professor Hill will learn about Rachael Maskell’s work, as well as attend seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making. Professor Hill will also attend a mock Select Committee.

The visit is intended to provide scientists with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how research can be used to make evidence-based decisions.

It will also give parliamentarians and civil servants the opportunity to improve their access to scientific evidence.

The week will begin with a reception in parliament where Professor Brian Cox will explain why policy makers and researchers must work together to ensure the UK’s excellent science is used to improve people’s lives and tackle global challenges.

Professor Hill said: “I hope the pairing scheme will provide me with a better understanding of the workings of Westminster and science policy development - the ways in which information needs to be delivered to policy makers, and the best ways of doing this.  I want to know what scientists can do to make their research more accessible.

 “I also have an interest in gender equality and in promoting Women in Science and so am interested in government action to improve equality.  I am also looking forward to networking with fellow scientists taking part in this year’s scheme - and listening to PMQs.”

Professor Hill is an ecologist and her research examines how habitat loss and climate change affects biodiversity. Her work investigates solutions for reducing the loss of biodiversity in landscapes that we depend upon for food production.

Rachael Maskell will have her chance to get hands on experience of scientific research when she dons a lab coat to visit the University of York next year.


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