From Lab Bench to Backbench

Dr Silvia Gratz from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute will be swapping a lab coat for legislation this week when she visits Ms Elizabeth Downes at the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall for a week in Westminster.

The visit is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society—the UK’s national academy of science—with support from the Government Office of Science.

During her visit, Dr Gratz will shadow Ms Downes and learn about her work at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Dr Gratz will also attend a mock Select Committee.

The visit will provide Dr Gratz with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how her research can be used to make evidence-based decisions. It will also give [parliamentarian/civil servant] the opportunity to investigate the science behind her decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

Dr Gratz said: “I am really delighted to be part of such a unique scheme and am looking forward to spending time at Westminster. The opportunity to gain an insight into the work that DEFRA carry out is really exciting, and I will also look forward to welcoming Elizabeth to the Rowett Institute to show her what we are working on in the labs!”

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: “It is crucial that we invest in the relationship between scientists and politicians, so that either profession can articulate and appreciate the pressures confronted by both. The Royal Society Pairing Scheme does just this, endowing scientists with a fascinating insight into parliament, and connecting policymakers with the best innovative thinking in the world, and in the process, enabling both to draw from and engage with the mutual expertise needed to address the challenges of our time.”

The Royal Society’s pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.

Ms Downes will get hands on experience of work conducted at the Rowett Institute when she dons a lab coat to visits Dr Gratz at University of Aberdeen later this year.