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Academic heads for Westminster

02 December 2013

Rachel Atkinson

UCLan’s Dr Matthew Baker will spend a week in the House of Commons

An esteemed academic from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) will be swapping a lab coat for legislation when he visits the House of Commons for a ‘Week in Westminster’.

Dr Matthew Baker, based in the School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences, will shadow Dr Chris Timperley for five days as part of a unique ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science.

During his visit Dr Baker will follow civil servant Dr Timperley, from the Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl). He will learn about his work, as well as attending Prime Minister’s Question Time and meeting Professor David MacKay FRS, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

“I’m excited to be experiencing a mini taster of a role that is a long way removed from my academic position at UCLan. I’m particularly interested in seeing how policies which affect the scientific community are formed.”

The visit, which starts on Monday 2 December, will provide Dr Baker with a behind-the-scenes insight into how science policy is formed as well as an understanding of the working life of MPs and civil servants.

The Senior Lecturer said: “I’m excited to be experiencing a mini taster of a role that is a long way removed from my academic position at UCLan. It’ll be a great learning opportunity for myself and for Dr Timperley. I’m particularly interested in seeing how policies which affect the scientific community are formed.”

The Royal Society’s Pairing Scheme aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK. It is an opportunity for civil servants to become better informed about science issues and for scientists to understand how they can influence science policy. Since 2001 over 200 scientists have been paired with MPs and civil servants.

“We set up the Royal Society’s MP Scientist pairing scheme in 2001 to provide the opportunity for MPs, civil servants and scientists to build long-term relationships with each other and have now organised over two hundred pairings."

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, said: “We live in a world facing increasing challenges that can only be addressed with a clear understanding of science. From climate change to influenza outbreaks, GM food to nuclear power, our MPs and civil servants have to make decisions about complex issues that will affect the lives of all those in the UK and, in many cases, more widely throughout the world. This means that MPs, civil servants and scientists have a responsibility to engage with each other to get the best possible scientific advice into public policy making.

“We set up the Royal Society’s MP Scientist pairing scheme in 2001 to provide the opportunity for MPs, civil servants and scientists to build long-term relationships with each other and have now organised over two hundred pairings.

“I know many parliamentarians and scientists who have gained from the scheme, and the shaping of public policy can only improve over time as these relationships continue to grow.”