At the end of the second day of the Week in Westminster for the Royal Society MP-Scientist Pairing Scheme, we have had an introduction to all the committees and structures involved in science and technology that operate to help the government make policy. I have been amazed to find out how little I actually knew about how government worked. We've discussed issues such as how Select Committees scrutinise government policies (and how the Select Committees from the House of Lords and the House of Commons differ in what they investigate), how scientific advice is provided in emergency situations, the Foresight team that has to report on issues that might arise far ahead in the future, and the role of John Beddington, the chief scientific advisor.
One question we were asked today, which I found very interesting, was to imagine being the people responsible for reviewing the use of science and engineering in government departments. What processes, structures and resources would you want a department have in place to ensure its science and analytical activities are robust and effective? If you were reviewing a department (for example, the Department of Education), what would you want them to demonstrate in order to convince you that they were effectively using science to guide their policy-making?
Tomorrow I'll be attending a meeting of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee (they'll be discussing the Met Office) and then shadowing my constituency MP, Mark Williams to find out what a day in his life in Westminster is like.
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