Voice of the Future is an annual event which offers young scientists the chance to raise and discuss important issues about science policies to key political figures. The event is held in Parliament each year as a part of British Science Week. This year YSS Committee members Johnathan Love and Lucy Teece attended the event as representatives of the Royal Statistical Society.
“The Voice of the Future was a unique opportunity to interact and ask Members of Parliament, Sir Mark Walport the Government Chief Scientific Adviser and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee questions about the opportunities and challenges that Science in the UK faces in the foreseeable future .”
Coming from a mathematical and statistical background and being a STEM ambassador, one of the highlights for me was a question asked by a school pupil on the panel to Chi Onwurah MP, which focused on how can we, as a society, change young people’s negative attitudes towards maths and also convince people that numeracy is an essential skill to have. Chi’s response to this question highlighted that we should be giving “more and better rewards for teachers” and that the media can have a role to play in changing the country’s perception of Maths as a subject; though the responsibility of changing these attitudes and perceptions lies with our society and we should be doing more to promote the fact that Maths is a really “important, creative and beautiful subject.”
As can be expected, questions around leaving the European Union featured heavily, with a number of concerns raised about the effect of this change on research funding and collaboration with existing European colleagues. It was encouraging to hear Jo Johnson MP confirm a commitment from the Government to research and development as a “big priority” and that £4.7 billion is planned to be spent by 2021 on UK Research and Development, which is a 20% increase of what was planned to be originally spent on UK Research and Development.
A multitude of topics were discussed by Sir Mark Walport and the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee: ranging from genetic technologies, driverless cars, food security, artificial intelligence, commercial spaceflight, antimicrobial resistance and the influence of the arts, humanities and social sciences on scientific policy.
This unique event encourages young scientists from all over the UK to take part in political debate and shows that there is a real interest in government to engage with the scientific community.
“I was honoured to be asked to represent the Royal Statistical at this year’s Voice of the Future event. This excellent opportunity shows a willingness to build and maintain a constructive dialogue between parliament and the younger generation of scientists.”
Throughout the afternoon we heard questions from representatives from a wide range of scientific societies, organisations, and local high schools. There was a great deal of involvement from many of the UK’s greatest science organisations, such as the Royal Society, the British Pharmacological Society, and the Campaign for Science and Engineering. These questions were answered by Chi Onwurah MP (Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation), Sir Mark Walport (Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Jo Johnson MP (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation) and members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.
A full video of the Voice of the Future hearing is available on the parliamentlive.tv website.