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Review: The Voice of the Future 2019

By Sritika Chowdhury

The Voice of the Future (VOF), organised by the Royal Society of Biology, is a unique event that offers students and young scientists the chance to put forward their questions on scientific policies and issues to key political figures in the UK. YSS Committee member Sritika Chowdhury represented the Royal Statistical Society at this year’s event held on 12th March 2019, at the Houses of Parliament.

On a very busy day for the UK Parliament, representatives from various societies and high schools were given the opportunity to question members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. This included, Norman Lamb, Vicky Ford, Stephen Metcalfe and Carol Monaghan (the Government Chief Scientific Adviser), Sir Patrick Vallance(Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation), Chris Skidmore, Chi Onwurah a(Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation).

The event was opened by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, who spoke enthusiastically about the importance of science in our lives and encouraged the uptake of science, mathematics and engineering subjects by young students.

The questions posed were diverse, ranging from the impact of Brexit on UK’s role in various EU funded science and policy programmes, to the actions taken by school children to safeguard their future on climate change. Vicky Ford spoke about encouraging young girls in school to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) to promote more jobs, happier and better quality of lives. Chi Onwurah also emphasised the need for additional funding to ensure there are suitable pathways into STEM that do not require STEM degrees. The Select Committee emphasised the importance of collectively tackling issues such as climate change, the need to increase investment in research and development to 2.5% of GDP, and the impact of Brexit on future research.

I asked the Committee a question about the impact of big data and machine learning techniques on our daily lives and the need for appropriate regulation. Sir Patrick Vallance acknowledged the need to test, pilot and regulate such techniques through working groups set up for regulation of innovation.

Overall, it was an interesting and inspiring event that showcased the extent to which politicians value science and their commitment towards young scientists. The whole session was an eye-opening experience, and one I would highly recommend to anyone interested in science, society and policy.   

A full audio of this year’s Voice of the Future event is available on Parliament TV Live.

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Review: Parliamentary Links Day 2018

review by Shikta Das (YSS) Imperial_profile_pic

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”.

Keynotes

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.

Audience

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).

Panel1

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.

Panel2

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.

HOL

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.