Challenging the policymakers: Voice of the Future 2016
Amber Abernethie | Next Generation
Optimising failed experiments or collecting negative results can leave a PhD student feeling less than successful. However, after attending the recent Voice of the Future 2016 event, I came back not just with a new insight into policymaking, but also with a refreshing wider perspective on how important these aspects of science are too.
Voice of the Future, which I attended on behalf of the Society for Endocrinology, takes place annually at the Houses of Parliament. It enables us, as scientists, to experience how it feels to be an MP sitting in a Select Committee meeting, putting our questions to key influential policymakers.
This year, after an exciting introduction from the Rt Hon John Bercow MP (the Speaker of the House of Commons), the panel answering our questions included Professor Sir Mark Walport (the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser), members of the Science and Technology Select Committee, Jo Johnson MP (Minister for Universities and Science) and Yvonne Fovargue MP (Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills). Halfway through, we even received a video message from Tim Peake all the way from the International Space Station!
Common themes expressed by all of the panellists included the importance of inspiring more young people to continue with STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) after school, as well as addressing the barriers creating under-represented groups in these careers (which include women, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, individuals from minority ethnic groups, and those with disabilities). Other hot topics were how our science will be affected by the decision to stay or leave the EU, as well as by recent immigration restrictions.
I found Sir Mark Walport’s views on the importance of good quality scientific data especially motivating. Hearing them from him gave me confidence that my lengthy optimisation to achieve reliable results (and the skills which I’m building in the process) are all the more worthwhile!
As well as returning to the lab with a new sense of purpose, the event gave me a fantastic insight into science policymaking, something which I now may consider as a career after my PhD. Thanks, Society for Endocrinology, for a great afternoon!
Centre for Cardiovascular Research, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh