Access to reliable and timely evidence is essential for parliaments to effectively execute their four main functions of scrutiny, legislation, debating and financial oversight. Sources of evidence can be diverse, with academic research only one type of information that is used in parliamentary processes.
POST, as it is known, is based at the heart of Westminster. It serves both Houses of Parliament in providing impartial advice to parliamentarians on science and technology policy issues; often in the form of briefing papers called POSTnotes. POST was formed by a group of MPs and Peers concerned at the lack of scientific evidence available to influence Parliamentary policy and in 2001 both Houses decided that POST should be established as a permanent bicameral institution.
In October 2015 I wrote a post about how research gets into Parliament. Six months on, in April this year, I had a Twitter conversation with Matthew Purvis, head of research services in the House of Lords Library. Matthew told me that there are a couple of other ways that research gets into Parliament, which I didn’t know about when I wrote my original post. So below is an update. Updates are in italics in the text, but here’s a summary of what’s new:
Research also gets into Parliament:
in Lords Briefing Packs (no. 6)
through Lords Library responses to Peers’ questions (no. 8)
through the House of Lords Library Current Affairs Digest (no. 9)
Nine ways research gets into Parliament (pdf here).
Discussions about research and policy have a tendency to be more reflective about policy-making in general, rather than focusing on the more practical aspects of how research filters through a variety of networks and into policy discussions. Sarah Foxen looks at eight specific ways research currently gets into Parliament and provides some helpful links on where to start to get more involved.
I recently attended an RCUK-funded training day on research and policy. Part-way through one of the breakout sessions, it became apparent that my peers were sharing my frustrations with the training. We had expected to gain practical insight into how research feeds into policy, but instead the training had a rather more reflective focus, with the majority of speakers using their lectern time to perpetuate or challenge discourses surrounding academic impact.