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CIR Researcher quizzes Parliamentarians

March 2019: Parliamentary engagement by one of our early career researchers

Calum Bain questions the Shadow Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation
Calum Bain questions the Shadow Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation

Tuesday 12th March was a hectic day in the Palace of Westminster with parliamentarians voting on the second so-called 'Meaningful Vote' concerning Britain’s future relationship with the EU. However, earlier in the day, in Committee Room 14, a cross-examination of MPs and Government Advisors by early career scientists, including CIR researcher Calum Bain, took place. The Voice of the Future event, organised by the Royal Society for Biology (RSB), gave early career researchers the chance to question members of the Science and Technology Committee, the current Minister (Chris Skidmore, MP) and Shadow Minister (Chi Onwurah, MP) of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, and Government's Chief Scientific Advisor (Patrick Vallance).

Along with Emma Chambers (University College London) and Becky Newman (Francis Crick Institute), Calum was representing the British Society for Immunology (BSI) who was invited to submit questions and send a delegation to the Voice of the Future event. Becky first asked members of the Science and Technology Committee what can be done to encourage people with a STEM background to enter politics. The panel agreed that the simplest solution was scientists putting themselves forward, although they acknowledged that the sometimes-hostile environment of politics probably discourages many.

Calum's question focussed on the recent pledge by the UK government to increase R&D expenditure from 1.7% to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 to be in line with the OECD average. He asked the Shadow Minister how the Government should cover any shortfall in the pledge to meet this target should Brexit discourage private funding from industry. The Shadow Minister replied by saying that a future Labour Government would establish a National Transformation Fund and a National Investment Bank to direct additional funds towards science and technology and would strive to commit 3% of GDP to R&D in this timeframe. This is welcome news given all the uncertainty over Brexit.

'Voice of the Future' is the only event of its kind on the Westminster calendar, providing early career researchers with the opportunity to have their voices heard and question parliamentarians directly.