Scientists of the future have their voices heard in Parliament


12 March 2008

Young scientists had the opportunity to put probing questions of their choice to a panel of MPs yesterday. This included the chance to question Ian Pearson MP, Minister for Science and Innovation. 

This Voice of the Future event is organised annually by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) on behalf of the wider scientific community with the aim of strengthening links between scientists, Parliament and Government.

MPs from the Commons Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills formed the panel for a special Science Question Time, similar to the BBC TV Question Time. This opened a dialogue between the next generation of talented scientists and the Members of the Select Committee. 

The session was chaired by Phil Willis MP, who is Chairman of the Select Committee, which, among other things, is responsible for scrutinising further education, higher education, skills and the Government Office for Science.

Scientists from all disciplines in the early stages of their career, typically aged from their early twenties to mid-thirties, were able to raise the issues they believe to be most important to the future of science in the UK. 

Topics addressed included standards of education, research funding, gender inequalities in science and so-called pseudo science.

Mr Pearson then addressed the young group of delegates with a speech that highlighted the importance of science and engineering to the challenges we face globally, such as climate change and food security. He also discussed the important role science plays in Britain for maintaining competitiveness in the global economy, and the need for dialogue between scientists and the public.

Jennifer Clark, Health, Safety and Environment specialist at Eastman Chemical Company was delighted by the chance to attend as one of the young delegates: "The Voice of the Future is a fantastic experience providing the unique opportunity to speak to MPs, learn what they are doing to support chemistry and science in the UK, and ask provocative questions."

Richard Pike, RSC's Chief Executive, said: "We are very pleased to be able to provide these scientists with such a great opportunity to question MPs and Cabinet Ministers on how scientific issues are dealt with, and also hear from them what their vision is for the future.

"This event is at the heart of democratic principles by allowing younger members of the community to ask unrestricted questions, and on subjects most relevant to the future of the scientific community, such as education, skills and the infrastructure for research and funding."

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