From Green Bench to Lab Bench
Carol Monaghan MP took a walk in the shoes of an Edinburgh health data scientist as part of the Royal Society's pairing scheme for scientists and MPs. April 2019
On Thursday 18 April, Carol Monaghan, MP for Glasgow North, spent the day with Dr. Mairead Bermingham and her research colleagues from the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM). This was a reciprocal visit arranged through the Royal Society Pairing Scheme which aims to build bridges between parliamentarians and some of the best scientists in the UK. The scheme gives policymakers and research scientists an opportunity to experience each other’s worlds, fostering exchange of knowledge and understanding of politics, policy and science.
The aim of the visit was to demonstrate how translational research is taken from “bench to bedside”, and how discoveries made in the IGMM can eventually be used to improve people’s lives.
During the day, Carol met with Mairead and had the opportunity to discuss her research on age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and gum disease. Mairead and Carol also got to speak about the key computational support facilities used in her research at the Centre for Genomics and Experimental Medicine (CGEM). As part of the visit, Carol donned a lab coat and took part in a hands-on gene editing experiment, to observe the effects of knocking out the SORCS3 gene in stem cells to understand how this gene is involved in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder. Carol then met Professor Tim Aitman, Director of the CGEM and Co-PI of the Scottish Genomes Partnership, and Dr Alison Meynert, IGMM Bioinformatics Analysis Core Manager, to discuss the recent Scottish Science Advisory Council report titled, “Informing the Future of Genomic Medicine in Scotland”.
Later in the day, Carol joined Mairead in giving a seminar about their experience of the Royal Society Pairing Scheme to University researchers and students. Carol also spoke about her campaign in the UK Parliament to change attitudes towards Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and the impact of Brexit on public health, workforces and research. Finally, Carol met with Professor Chris Ponting, head of the MRC Human Genetics Unit’s Biomedical Genomics section to discuss his research on the genetics of ME.
I really enjoyed visiting the IGMM as part of the Royal Society Parliament Pairing Scheme. It was fascinating to hear about the research Mairead is currently undertaking, and the great potential this could have on the clinical management of age-related diseases in the future.
The highlight of my visit so far is to see the passion that Mairead and her colleagues have for their research. Mairead has really gone out of her way to demonstrate the importance of health data research, and its role in society. This is vital as policy makers need to see how taxpayers’ money is being spent, and how a given change in policy is going to improve the lives of people across the UK.
The research undertaken within the IGMM is at the forefront of scientific innovation, and is benefitting people across these isles. The work being done here is of major significance, and should be championed by both the Scottish and UK Governments.
The visit comes after Mairead spent a week in Westminster shadowing Carol in November last year to learn more about Carol’s MP work. Mairead also attended select committees, seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making.
I really enjoyed the Pairing Scheme and would highly recommend it to others. The week gave me a greater appreciation of the importance of research evidence in policymaking.
Through this reciprocal visit, we have gained a true understanding of each other’s work, and I hope that this will form the basis for a fruitful partnership into the future.
You can learn more about Mairead’s experience on her University of Edinburgh’s Blog.
Further information about the Royal Society pairing scheme, as well as case studies, can be found at the following link: http://royalsociety.org/training/pairing-scheme/.