review by Shikta Das (YSS)
Shikta Das attended Parliamentary Links Day on behalf of the Young Statistician Section (YSS).
I was honoured to attend the majestic location of Parliament for the Links Day on 26th of June, 2018. Royal Statistical Society (RSS) Executive Director, Hetan Shah, invited me to be a part of it and it was a huge privilege to be among the representatives of learned scientists and leaders of industry. The 30th Parliamentary Link Day was organised by the Royal Society of Biology and it welcomed Members of Parliament and leaders of the scientific community to discuss the theme of “Science and the Industrial Strategy”.
The day offered engaging sessions led by distinguished speakers and it was well represented by panellists from all areas of science and technology. Esteemed parliamentarian Stephen Metcalfe MP introduced the attendees to the excellent speakers, including Rt Hon John Bercow MP (Speaker of the House of Commons), R Hon Norman Lamb MP (Chair, House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology), Chi Onwurah MP (Shadow Minister of Industrial Strategy), Rt Hon Claire Perry MP (Minster of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Dr Patrick Vallance (Government Chief Scientific Advisor) and Rebecca Endean (UK Research and Innovation). The speakers talked about the importance of Science in UK’s economy and industrial strategy and the continuing need to retain the best academics in the UK. Chi Onwurah MP highlighted the important issue of government funding for science and UK’s access to talent in a Post Brexit world.
The Panel discussions were chaired by BBC’s Science Correspondent Pallav Ghosh. The panel featured, Prof Jonathan Flint (Institute of Physics), Prof John McGagh (Institute of Chemical Engineers), Prof Carol Monaghan MP (House of commons select committee on Science and Technology), Prof Dame Carol Robinson (Royal Society of Chemistry), Hetan Shah (Royal Statistical Society), Dr Louise Leong (Royal Society of Biology), Prof Peter Bruce (The Royal Society), Prof Iain Gray (The Royal Society of Edinburgh), Dr Sarah Main (Campaign for Science and Engineering) and Dr Hayaatun Sillem (Royal Academy of Engineering).
The first panel discussion was about diversity in science and UK’s access to bright people. Prof Flint, talked about access to bright people. He suggested that, among other things, UK’s industrial strategy should aim to make it the best place for innovation. Prof Robinson talked about the challenges in respect of diversity, especially for women and academics and scientists from an ethnic minority background. She also talked about training more technical staff. John talked about the immense opportunities offered by Artificial Intelligence and how it can dramatically change the way we observe science. Hetan Shah (RSS Executive Director) emphasized the need for encouraging participation and offering more opportunities to scientists from minority groups. He outlined some of RSS efforts in contributing towards the society, for example, the scheme to offer statistical volunteers for charities. He emphasized the need for a council for data ethics and developing more environmentally sustainable strategies.
The second panel discussion was on the role of the royal societies and how can they help in developing and delivering strategies.
The event was followed by a lunch at the House of Lords where there was further opportunity to meet and network with a range of leaders from the worlds of academics, scientists, civil service, politics and industry.
Overall, the Link Day was a great opportunity for young scientists like me to meet and hear from so many distinguished speakers and diverse set of attendees. It offered me a window to the world of policy making. As a scientist and a statistician, I was inspired to note that the work that we publish as part of our work is actually used to develop policies and strategies which affect everyone’s lives.