Today was the day of another course I had registered quite a good while for (good thing you get reminders, and I started keeping a calendar!): Introduction to Science Policy organised by Newton’s Apple. Originally the plan had been to attend if I finish the days work, but seeing as yesterday half-way through me starting my experiments one of the instruments stopped working properly (way to go for my luck!), I could easily organise my work to attend. So this afternoon saw me making my way to the House of Commons (WOW…what a gorgeous Gothic building!).
The first presentation was given by Dr Michael Elves, one of the trustees of the organisation, who explained to us a bit about how the government and policy structures work in the UK. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Brian Iddon, MP, then Yvonne Boyd from DEFRA, and finally Dr Chris Kirk from the Biochemistry Society about their experience with policy from their different points of view: an MP, a civil servant, and from a Learned Society.
So what did I think? Well, first of all I found it really helpful. Not being English one of the main problems I find here is that I don’t have the necessary background and knowledge to understand fully all that is going on around me. Thus, and explanation of how the two houses work and what the function of other entities is was a good grounding for me. (I also found this problem when attending the AHRC Media Training when they started discussing different tv programmes: I don’t know who the target audience of the different programmes and stations is, which puts me at a bit of a disadvantage when trying to understand how to target different programmes). Besides this I was a bit disappointed by the first presenter by showing his disapproval of certain things that have happened (I expected a more impartial presentation), I found it a bit funny the way the MP kept on saying what he has achieved in parliament (though he never really got to the ‘how’, which would have probably been more relevant), was interested in the point of view of the civil servant and her more no-nonsense discussion, and was quite impressed by Dr Kirk from the Biochemistry Society for his fresh look at things and his lack of single-minded thinking for just his own society and interest in the better good of science. Nevertheless, it was a good event, not least as I got to see a bit of the Palace of Westminster!