The annual Parliamentary Links Day took place on 22 June 2010. The purpose was to provide a platform for representatives from all the major scientific bodies in the UK (RAEng, RS, IoP, IChemE etc) to communicate the significance of science to MPs. Dr Geoff Fowler attended this RSC event on SCI's behalf.
Several senior Commons members addressed the meeting, including the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, David Willetts (Minister for Science and Universities) and David Milliband, but to name a few. There was no distinct theme to the proceedings, rather many great scientists, representing their professional organisation or affiliation were provided with about five minutes to communicate the importance of their particular science and technology sector to the gathered audience. It could be likened to a Scientific Dragons' Den!
Over 200 scientists, press, funding agencies and MPs attended, all packed into the Attlee Room in Portcullis House. Despite the draw of the upcoming emergency budget, many MPs stayed to almost the end.
The paucity of scientists in the House of Commons was clear, a point made well by Dr Julian Hubbert, elected in May 2010 to the Commons and one of only two MPs with a Science PhD – rather a poor statistic compared to other professions. Although many of the speakers spoke highly of the need for science and its significant to the UK economy, a particularly strong message came from Dame Jocelyn Bell who spoke on behalf of the IoP, whose main concern was the lack of physics teachers. Indeed there is only one qualified physicist teaching physics in Cumbria.
Overall, a key message which the meeting highlighted was that to increase the profile of Science (and Chemistry) on the political agenda, we should write to our local MPs, and do so regularly. Most MPs know little about science and need advice and support to ensure that they are well informed and it does not become a fringe subject.
Geoff D Fowler, July 2010