How much do you know about the opportunities that are available for academics to engage with Parliament? Realising how little she knew, one of our PhD students, Rebecca, recently attended a ‘Research, Impact and the UK Parliament’ training afternoon held at Glasgow University (http://www.parliament.uk/academic-training) to find out more.
The afternoon began with a whistle stop tour of the role and duties of Government and Parliament, and the crucial differences between them. Simon Wakefield from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/research.aspx, @ScotParl) also gave a short talk on academic research in the Scottish Government.
Following these introductory talks, members were split into three smaller breakout groups for three short talks. The first talk was from Dr Caroline Kenny, who presented on the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST; https://www.parliament.uk/post, @POST_UK) and her recent work analysing the REF 2014 impact case studies. This analysis considered 3 main questions: how are researchers engaging with Parliament, which areas of Parliament are being engaged with and which subject areas and institutions are engaging. Of the areas of Parliament engaged with, select committees were most commonly mentioned, followed by individual MPs or Peers. The next two talks received led on nicely from these findings, with the first covering effective ways in which to engage with UK Parliamentarians and the second covering the purpose of select committees and how to engage with them.
As well as writing to constituency MPs, simple ways to find MPs and Peers who have a particular interest in your area of research were outlined, including looking at members of All-Party Parliamentary Groups (https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/standards-and-financial-interests/parliamentary-commissioner-for-standards/registers-of-interests/register-of-all-party-party-parliamentary-groups/) and using Hansard (https://hansard.parliament.uk/) to find out which MPs contributed to particular debates.
Another way to become involved is to submit evidence to select committees. In the final talk, Dr Phil Larkin provided a fantastic overview of select committees and submitting written and oral evidence to such committees. For more information on submitting evidence to a select committee, and to see a list of calls for evidence which are currently open, see: http://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/have-your-say/take-part-in-committee-inquiries/commons-witness-guide/
Dr Larkin also touched upon Parliamentary fellowships, which provide academics at all stages of their career the opportunity to carry out research within Parliament. More information about fellowship opportunities within the UK Parliament is available here: https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/education-programmes/universities-programme/become-an-academic-fellow-at-the-house-of-commons/ and for the Scottish Parliament is available here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/100472.aspx.
The final talk of the day was from Professor Kenneth Gibb, who gave an extremely interesting and insightful talk into his experience of working with Parliament. In all, the day was extremely informative and provided a fantastic overview of the opportunities available for academics to engage with Parliament, at all stages of their career.