From lab bench to front bench

Thursday 7 December 2017

Dr Silvia Paracchini from the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews swapped a lab coat for legislation when she visited Stephen Gethins MP at the House of Commons for a week in Westminster.

The week (4 to 7 December) is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Science & Engineering (GSE) profession.

During her visit Dr Paracchini shadowed the North East Fife MP to learn about his work. As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Dr Paracchini also attended a mock select committee.

The visit provided Dr Paracchini with behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how her research can be used to make evidence-based decisions. It also gave Mr Gethins the opportunity to investigate the science behind his decisions.

Dr Paracchini said: “Now more than ever, we need to establish positive channels of communication to consolidate trust and respect between scientists and the public and promote evidence-based policy making. This scheme is a fantastic opportunity to both understand how different sections of the Parliament work and to discuss directly with politicians issues of key importance for scientists going from the science budget to immigration policies.

“As a European Union national I am delighted to shadow Stephen Gethins MP who is doing lots of important work in this area.”

paracchini-gethins-mainbodyMr Gethins said he was delighted that Dr Paracchini had been chosen by the Royal Society to shadow him at Westminster. He said: “Staff at the University of St Andrews are of extremely high calibre and it is always a pleasure to welcome them to Parliament. Silvia and the team she works with carry out exceptionally important work in the field of neurogenetics and I look forward to visiting them all soon.”

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.

Mr Gethins will get hands on experience of neurogenetics when he dons a lab coat to visit Dr Paracchini at the University of St Andrews next year.


The Royal Society pairing scheme is in its 17th year. Since it started in 2001, 400 scientists, 169 MPs, five peers and 125 civil servants have taken part in the scheme. Previous participants include Sir Alan Duncan, Foreign Office Minister; Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister; Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy; and Caroline Lucas, Co-leader of the Green Party.

Further information about the Royal Society pairing scheme, as well as case studies, can be found online.

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering and medicine.

The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society’s strategic priorities emphasise its commitment to the highest quality science, to curiosity driven research, and to the development and use of science for the benefit of society. These priorities are:

  • Promoting excellence in science
  • Supporting international collaboration
  • Demonstrating the importance of science to everyone

For further information visit the Royal Society website. Follow the society on Twitter or on Facebook.

The scheme is supported by the Government Science & Engineering (GSE) Profession, managed from within the Government Office for Science. The Government Office for Science ensures that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking. It is led by the Government’s Interim Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, who advises the Prime Minister and Cabinet on all scientific matters.

The Government Office for Science is responsible for giving scientific advice to the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet (through a programme of projects that reflect the priorities of the government); ensuring and improving the quality and use of scientific evidence and advice in government (through advice and projects and by creating and supporting connections between officials and the scientific community); providing the best scientific advice in the case of emergencies (through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies [SAGE]); and helping the independent Council for Science and Technology provide high level advice to the Prime Minister.

For further information about the Royal Society contact Danielle Haddad, Assistant Press Officer, Royal Society on 020 7451 2508 or email [email protected].

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office. Contact Christine Tudhope on 01334 467 320/07526 624 243 or [email protected].

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