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Shaping the Future Together:Science, Policy, and Public Engagement

As an early career scientists finding a space in politics may not be the first thought but change doesn’t come by waiting for someone else to do the work.In many ways science holds itself as an evidence based unbiased practice supported purely by facts, while politics is generally known for the opposite. The latter has become a game of appeasing the masses and finding the evidence that will support your narrative.


The RSB(Royal Society of Biology) young voices of the future policy events encourages researchers to pose questions to parliamentarians with an invited audience to further understand how UK parliament works and where scientists fit in.


The event was attended by sitting members of parliament of the science and technology select committee. In this session roles are reversed with them on the hot seat ,opposite to what they are used to. As someone not fully aware of how parliament works, forgive me for any errors. A pre-set list of questions are asked by representative bodies of different institutions and learned bodies from the UK. I was invited by the Royal Society of Biology and other members included Ecological society, Royal society of chemistry and more.



The questions asked ranged from: translating the breadth of issues facing scientific communities from funding to graduate outcomes and public engagement with science to pressing water quality issues. With so much covered which you can watch back in detail below. But this is what stood out to me.





…squeezed out


Retaining professionals in any field is a growing problem and for scientists from PhD minimum stipends to striking lecturers, the conversation has moved from encouraging new people into STEM to keeping those recruited in. A particularly important issue from a TCIM point of view as with every new initiative floods more people leaving the field that just don't feel supported. The government through many public campaigns do encourage STEM pursuits and its’s marketed as a lucrative well paying industry, and while this may be true for some there are holes in the framework to address employment across the sector. On the top end, even with the work being done by many niche organisations it seems that the ceiling is impenetrable with purposeful negligence at times. The discussion hinted on the importance of fixing this problem.


Public Engagement


Covid-19 is the backdrop for one of the biggest public health campaigns for many young scientists. The effort in spreading correct information was not solely down to top government officials but heavily relied on the vast range of skills from scientists from medical doctors and immunologists to influencers, comedians and more. This provided key context for the discussion on the use of social media and training that may be needed in the future. It was interesting as scicomm is still a relatively new field that is growing daily. What we currently know as scicomm is constantly evolving and will only grow further. A clear example of this is the upcoming launch of YouTube health - a dedicated section with select content creators providing bite size health information for everyone. The discussion suggested the government should look into engaging with the expertise available outside traditional forms of communication.


Policy in Action


River pollution in the UK is a growing concern of public and environmental health. Illegal dumping of sewage into the rivers was brought up by the ecological society. This was especially interesting as it was a current issue that needed to be addressed and responded to by recent government work - “ sewage and inlands water bill - 2021 ” recently published that aims to monitor and report sewage dumping and report the results for potential action by the government. Having clean free outdoor space is incredibly important for wellbeing - taking away from the natural resources and what affects regal living and enjoyable actions. To reverse this damage government policies will have to change to force companies responsible for river pollution to change what they do.Interestingly a question touched upon at the policy event shows change being placed but impact and benefits won't be seen till much later. Like science, policy can be a slow burner in getting known evidence from written reports to positive outcomes.




Policy is an important part of how society functions and the event further highlighted this and sparked interesting ways for me to at first just stay updated and actively care about things I am passionate about. It takes the interest from concerned groups to get action if this isn't already an area of importance to the government. While great and long lasting changes are probably more impactful through policy, that doesn't make it the only way for change and change doesn’t come by waiting for someone else to do the work. You can watch back the event below.





 



The Covid-19 pandemic gave us the greatest insight into the role of the Chief Scientific Advisor in a national emergency and while there is only one slot available there.

To get your policy journey started - these careers all contribute to impact driven work.





  • Policy Advisors : “To date, I still have one foot in academia as I work with academics and support policy activities that apply to an academic context.I enjoy connecting people that are working on inspiring EDI initiatives with learned societies. In the policy world, you have to be a sponge absorbing lots of evidence. Along my journey, I have learnt to take large amounts of information and disseminate findings in understandable, digestible formats covering various life science disciplines"


  • Junior Consultant UNICEF. “ My role focuses on finding the best ways to organize content for country offices, finding free online resources, and looking at course completion rates. This role has enabled me to get more experience with program implementation and evaluation, which is very applicable to public health projects. “


  • Science Communication: As someone with strong research skills, I have been able to branch out from science writing; these days, I also do health, policy, technology, and business writing. Because I am a scientist, and am familiar with the terminology scientists use, I also know how important it is to summarize complex topics in a manner that is easy-to-understand for a general audience. So, my science background has been foundational to my career as a science writer.


  • Business Developer: “My passions have become more tailored to my career. When I was younger it was more focused on Technology but now my passion is to help improve the quality of the human lifespan. The defining moment was in 2017 when I went to a conference and saw the future of what healthcare could be. My passions have become more tailored to my career. When I was younger it was more focused on Technology but now my passion is to help improve the quality of the human lifespan. The defining moment was in 2017 when I went to a conference and saw the future of what healthcare could be. “


  • Freelance consulting : I’m setting up as a consultant for medical research charities and researchers. I provide insight into research grant portfolios, links with industry, how to develop research strategies that are patient focused, and how to utilise research for fundraising.You learn about pitching to different audiences, the importance of strategy vs planning, stakeholder management, meeting chairing, etc.


  • Science Strategy Lead: In my current role at the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health, I help embed sex- and gender-based analysis in Canadian health research. This involves keeping up with the most recent science in the area and developing materials like fact sheets, training modules and presentations to help equip researchers to apply these methods in their own work.



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