The setting was the Boothroyd Room, where Select Committees meet to hear evidence and publicy scrutinise government work. In a unique event in the political calendar, the tables had been turned so that we were sitting in the famed horseshoe, and the MPs were sitting before us to face our questions.
We represented over 20 learned scientific societies, including the Royal Society of Chemistry, along with a selection of high schools. We had all prepared questions in advance and the event was broadcast live, with Twitter providing auxiliary questions. We were carefully warned that parliamentary privilege didn’t apply to us!
First up was Chi Onwurah (Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science and Innovation), who told us that science and engineering along with politics represent engines of progress for the nation, and that they depend on innovation by people with different backgrounds in gender, class and international origin coming together and making something new.
Later, Jo Johnson (Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation) highlighted the increase in funding for STEM subjects in the latest budget and recognised that despite exiting from the EU it was important to have structures in place to foster international collaboration.
Finally, the Commons Select Committee for Science & Technology discussed a wide range of topics, including the importance of the Arts to Science research both in terms of creativity being the foundation of innovation and scientific advances having the capability for significant social impact.
Overall, it was a fantastic experience bringing together young scientists and policy-makers. The questions that we had produced covered wide-ranging and important aspects of politics and science. Despite a small amount of political wrangling it was encouraging to see that MPs across all political parties have a deep respect for science and the role that the UK plays in its research.