Science and the Parliament

Our Dynamic Earth Science Centre in Edinburgh hosted the 9th annual Science in the Parliament event on 11 November 2009. The event gives Scotland’s scientists and Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), the ability to meet and discuss issues of concern in the scientific fields. The SCI’s Scotland Regional Group was in attendance to promote awareness of the Society. The topic of this year’s meeting was ‘The Science Behind Health’.

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, spoke of Scotland’s health issues and how the Scottish Government has a duty to help combat these issues by raising public health awareness. She spoke of the importance of interdisciplinary science in the Scottish Government’s view of the future including: bioelectronics, bioinformatics, biophotonics and synthetic biology.

Professor Anne Glover, Chief Scientific Advisor, discussed the achievements of a number of institutions in Scotland and the benefits they have brought to the wellbeing of Scotland and to that of the world. She described the impact of health science research in Scotland as leading the G20 countries, and spoke about health challenges remaining to be solved including: dementia, influenza, cancer, heart disease, obesity and mental health.

The meeting then split into four sessions, giving the audience a chance to hear talks from within their fields of interest and voice their views on the effects of government policy on science in general. Session organisers drew up a number of topical questions to be put to a panel of MSPs. The Parliamentary Question Panel consisted of Ross Finnie (Scottish Liberal Democrats), Patrick Harvie (Scottish Green party), Alex Johnstone (Scottish Conservative party), Dr Richard Simpson (Scottish Labour party) and Dr Bill Wilson (Scottish National Party). Questions were answered on topics such as an independent Scotland, climate change, the implementation of policy, discovery and delivery of drugs in Scotland, and the recent controversial dismissal of Professor Nutt from the Government’s Drugs Advisory Council.

It was noted that there is a great need for scientists to work together and not compete against each other to achieve our goals. New scientists need to come through and help to push forward our advancements, as these young people are the ones who will make the discoveries of the future.

Ross Macdonald, SCI Scotland Group Committee

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