How does science influence policy development in Westminster?

Ever wondered how politicians and civil servants use science to make policy decisions? Dr Jonny Day spent a week in Westminster on the Royal Society Pairing Scheme to find out.

The week started with a tour of Westminster followed by a series of lectures and workshops. These gave the attendees a flavour of the broad range of science used by Government departments and Parliament, including what happens in the event of a natural disaster. “It was very exciting; we ran through training exercises set by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), who would be called to provide scientific advice to the Prime Minister’s cabinet office in a national emergency.”

Jonny spent the rest of the week at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) shadowing civil servant Dr. Tyrone Dunbar. Tyrone is a climate scientist and former student in the Department of Meteorology and now works to make climate science accessible for policy makers. Tyrone was part of the UK delegation to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm, September 2013.

During his visit Jonny also met with DECC’s chief scientific advisor, Prof. David Mackay, who is advising the government on how to plot a course to its 2050 decarbonisation targets. “Using his carbon calculator, David demonstrated the complex juggling act required to meet our carbon target and keep the lights on”. Tyrone will be visiting the Department of Meteorology on the 20th of January as part of a reciprocal visit to meet scientists and students.

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