An insider’s view of Westminster

28 November 2016

Daniel Burnham

Image: Daniel Burnham©  Daniel Burnham

Daniel Burnham from the Francis Crick Institute is taking time out from the lab to spend this week in Westminster with health minister Nicola Blackwood MP.

It is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society, with support from the Government Office for Science, which sees UK scientists shadow MPs and civil servants to learn about their work in policy making.

From today, Daniel will receive a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how evidence is used in policy making.

The week begins with a reception in parliament where Professor Brian Cox OBE, FRS, will explain why policy makers and researchers must work together to ensure the UK's excellent science is used to improve people's lives and tackle global challenges.

In return, Nicola Blackwood, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Public Health and Innovation and Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, should get hands on experience of scientific research next year as she dons a lab coat to visit Daniel at the Crick.

Daniel said: "I'm thrilled to be given an insider's view as to how Parliament works on a daily basis through attending committees, Prime Minister's Questions, and shadowing my paired Member of Parliament, Nicola Blackwood. Many problems within academia must be addressed jointly at a high level. I hope taking part in the pairing scheme will teach me how issues can be raised and solved at the highest level, and how these principles may be applied in academic culture."

Daniel is a postdoc in a research group that investigates the molecular machines which duplicate our DNA when cells in our bodies grow and divide. The team, led by Hasan Yardimci, uses techniques that are able to measure the action of individual molecules as they replicate the DNA. Errors in this process of DNA replication are often involved in cancer.

He adds: "Having an MP spend the day at the Crick is a great opportunity to showcase the diversity of both the science and people it takes to pursue discovery without boundaries, along with the day-to-day challenges of laboratory life."

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

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said: "Expert input can help decision-makers to respond to unpredictable, global challenges like pandemics as well as the more everyday problems like how to provide affordable care for an ageing population. By working closely with the research community on their doorstep, UK decision-makers can draw on the best innovative thinking around the world to inform their policymaking. The Royal Society pairing scheme, now in its 16th year, gives parliamentarians, civil servants and scientists the chance to build long-term relationships to ensure that excellent research and innovation taking place in the UK is used to improve people's lives."

  • Daniel Burnham is spending this week in Westminster, shadowing the work of health minister Nicola Blackwood MP.
  • It is part of a pairing scheme run by the Royal Society which sees UK scientists shadow MPs and civil servants to learn about their work in policy making.