From Backbench to Lab Bench: LMB welcomes visitors from Westminster

Royal Society ‘Parliament pairs’ and LMB Director, Jan Löwe, during visit to LMB
Royal Society ‘Parliament pairs’ and LMB Director, Jan Löwe, during visit to LMB

Daniel Zeichner MP for Cambridge, and Nancy Bailey and Rebecca Nohl from the Government Office for Science, swapped policy and debate for lab coats and experiments during a visit to the LMB as part of the Royal Society Parliament Pairing Scheme.

The scheme gives policymakers and research scientists an opportunity to experience each other’s worlds, fostering exchange of knowledge and understanding of politics, policy and science. The Westminster visitors were paired with LMB postdocs Glenn Masson and Nicola Smyllie as part of the 2017 scheme.

During their time at the LMB Nancy and Rebecca learned about Nicola’s research into body clocks in the LMB’s Neurobiology Division and took part in a hands-on light microscopy demonstration. Glenn showed Daniel key research support facilities used in his research on cell signalling pathways in the LMB’s PNAC Division. Daniel also joined Glenn for a lab meeting with fellow members of Roger William’s research group.

Glenn Masson explains how he uses mass spectrometry to Daniel Zeichner
Glenn Masson explains how he uses mass spectrometry to Daniel Zeichner

Daniel Zeichner said:

“I really enjoyed returning to the LMB, and this time as part of the Royal Society Parliament Pairing Scheme. It was fascinating to hear about the research Glenn is currently undertaking on cell signalling and the great potential this could have on curing seriously ill people in the future.”

“Clearly, the research being done at the LMB is critical to scientific innovation, which is benefitting the whole industry. The work being done here is a huge British export and one that this government, and subsequent governments, should champion.”

The visit to LMB follows on from a ‘Week in Westminster’ when Nicola and Glenn shadowed their parliamentary pair to learn more about their work. The LMB postdocs also attended seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, and attended a mock Select Committee.

Nicola Smyllie introduces her research to Government Office for Science visitors
Nicola Smyllie introduces her research to Government Office for Science visitors

Reflecting on her time in Westminster, Nicola said:

“I really enjoyed the Pairing Scheme and would highly recommend it to others – it’s a really fast way of getting a flavour for science policy making. After seeing first-hand how hard civil servants and MPs work, I appreciate how complex running the country is, and realise how little I knew about the processes involved in passing laws.”

Glenn added:

“The week gave me a greater appreciation of the various different directions our politicians are pulled when forming policy, and where science sits amongst those other priorities, such as having a political mandate. I think the most inspiring moment of the week was hearing Lord Oxburgh imploring more scientists to enter Parliament and shape the discourse surrounding Science in the UK.”

The Royal Society’s pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK. Each year 30 research scientists are paired with UK parliamentarians and civil servants.

Further references

Royal Society pairing scheme
Cambridge Network: “Cambridge MP welcomes scientist to Parliament in Royal Society pairing scheme”