From education to employment

New research collaboration strengthens evidence-based policy making in Parliament

Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament

A new collaboration which will see three academics embedded at the heart of Parliament will be launched today

At an event in Parliament, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST), in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will announce the appointment of three new academic ‘Thematic Research Lead’ roles, funded by ESRC. 

The three postholders will each join new thematic policy hubs which will bring together staff from POST, the House of Commons Library and Select Committee teams, ensuring greater co-ordination and a better flow of research information through Parliament.  

The Thematic Research Leads will strengthen links to the research community bringing topical, policy-focused research to the desks of MPs, Lords and those working in Parliament. Based on the concept of Chief Scientific Advisers, they will ensure a strong evidence base for debate and legislation. 

At an event in Parliament, Keynote speaker Sir Patrick Vallance, whose role as Chief Scientific Adviser gained such prominence during the Covid 19 pandemic, said:

“The role of research and evidence in policy making has never been more important. Building on the work of POST, these fellowships will play a vital role, giving parliamentarians further access to the very best independent evidence to inform their business and ensure effective and equitable policy.” 

A successful collaboration 

For nearly ten years, the ESRC has collaborated with Parliament by investing in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). Together, they have embedded social science research in Parliament, developed a world-leading Knowledge Exchange Unit, and established a culture of knowledge exchange between Parliament and the research community. 

Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), said:

“This launch event marks the next stage in nearly a decade of very fruitful collaboration between ESRC and POST. ESRC is now funding three excellent academics from different disciplines to be the first Thematic Research Leads in the UK Parliament.  

I look forward to seeing the ways in which these roles put research evidence at the heart of Parliament’s work to address the most pressing societal challenges. In particular, I hope this new investment will continue to build the capability of Parliament to work with academics, as well as helping to create a new generation of policy-minded academics.” 

The appointed researchers 

The three Thematic Research Leads are the first to take up these new roles and will begin work in January 2023. Each academic will join a different thematic policy hub, working alongside Parliamentary research staff to share their impartial expertise and deep knowledge of a policy area. They will bring insights from the wider academic community and support horizon scanning to ensure that Parliamentarians and their staff are able to access high quality and relevant research briefings on current and future issues. 

The appointed academics and their policy areas are: 

  • Dr Tamsin Edwards, Reader in Climate Change, King’s College London. Dr Edwards will lead on climate and environment; 
  • Dr Rick Whitaker, Associate Professor in European Politics, University of Leicester. Dr Whitaker will lead on Parliament, public administration and constitution; and 
  • Dr Kristen Harkness, Director, Institute for the Study of War and Strategy, University of St Andrews. Dr Harkness will lead on international affairs and defence. 

Adam Afriyie MP, Chair of the POST Board, said:

“We live in a world where fake news can gain traction in an instant and evidence can be eschewed in favour of conjecture. This collaboration is a real opportunity to ensure that impartial evidence and research are at the heart of our Parliament. These new posts will ensure that MPs and policy makers can find relevant and, crucially, accurate data at a time when it is more vital than ever.” 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the House of Commons, said:

“This is an exciting development for Parliament. POST has always been an outstanding resource for colleagues. Now, we will have links to academia truly embedded in our Parliament as well as access to the most current scientific insights.”  

Related Articles