Engaging with Parliament: Reflections on the Bartlett from a Parliamentary Assistant
30 January 2020
Bartlett Public Policy Manager Robyn Parker and House of Commons Select Committee Assistant Baris Tufekci discuss challenges and opportunities of Parliamentary engagement.
In December of last year we were joined at the Bartlett by Parliamentary Select Committee Assistant Baris Tufekci for a short secondment. While here, he explored our understanding of engagement with Parliament. I sat down to have a conversation with him on his reflections and to get some more information about engaging with Parliament.
Robyn Parker (Bartlett Public Policy Manager): From your time here, how do you think the Bartlett understands Parliamentary engagement?
Baris Tufekci (House of Commons Select Committee Assistant): In general there’s an understanding of the importance of engaging with Parliament and its ability to impact policy at a national level. There is definite interest in what Parliament does and opportunities for engagement that it presents – one academic I spoke to commented that UCL puts emphasis on its importance.
However, there’s perhaps a lack of clarity regarding the purpose and value of engagement and the measure of policy impact. Is it fundamentally for REF purposes or is there a wider goal or meaning?
Robyn: And what was your impression on how aware academics are of opportunities to engage?
Baris: From those I spoke to there was a lower level of awareness of specific opportunities, for example submitting written evidence to a Committee inquiry. It was described as ‘a fairly unknown landscape’, and that colleagues may not know the routes to access Parliament.
Robyn: Where do you think the challenges lie around this?
Baris: For early career researchers, there was some indication that they didn’t know that they could engage with Parliament at their current career level or did not feeling confident doing so. It is perhaps not widely known that Parliament encourages and welcomes engagement (e.g. written evidence) from junior researchers.
Due to a lack of awareness of the means of engaging with Parliament, there could perhaps also be an overestimation of the necessary time commitments.
Robyn: What do you think would help our academics here?
Baris: Time constraints came up as a challenge, so a more strategised and collegial approach could be helpful and might make engagement more efficient. For example if four researchers working in the same field co-ordinated their work and co-authored a piece of written evidence to a Committee inquiry it could be more efficient than four individually authored pieces.
Robyn: Great, thanks Baris for some really interesting observations. Keep reading to learn diferent ways to engage with Parliament.
Find opportunities to engage
- Look at open calls for evidence for Committee inquiries
- Subscribe to email alerts from relevant Committees or follow on twitter
- Subscribe to email alerts from relevant All-Party-Parliamentary-Groups (APPGs) or follow on twitter (full register of APPGs)
- Follow The Knowledge Exchange Unit at Parliament @UKParl_Research
- Follow Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology @POST_UK
Ways to engage
Select Committees are cross-party groups of Parliamentarians in the House of Commons and the House of Lords which scrutinise Government and conduct inquiries into a range of policy topics. They rely on expert input into their inquiries and are therefore a natural point of engagement for academic researchers. Engage with Select Committees by:
1. Submitting evidence to their inquiries
When a Select Committee launches an inquiry into a topic, it makes a call for written submissions. Select Committees encourage and welcome written submissions from academic researchers regardless of their level of seniority – do not feel reluctant to engage because you’re not the ‘main expert’ in your field. If your submission is accepted as evidence by the Committee (most are), it will normally be published on to its website and will inform its inquiry and report.
The Committee may then invite you to give oral evidence at one of its public sessions to seek further information from you for their inquiry. Read guidance on submitting and giving evidence here.
2. Contacting a Committee to suggest a topic for inquiry
Select Committees welcome suggestions from academic researchers about topics for future inquiries. Email the Committee’s Clerk or Specialists to give suggestions.
3. Applying to be a specialist adviser to a Committee
Committees can employ specialist advisers, who are often academics and are appointed either as general advisers to the Committee or to assist with specific inquiries. They are not permanent members of staff, but external specialists paid by the day.
POST (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology)
Parliament's in-house source of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of public policy issues related to science and technology. POST seeks to bridge research and policy, producing briefing papers on academic and other rigorous research and hosting events which bring in external stakeholders. You can engage with POST by proposing or contributing to one of its documents such as POSTbriefs or POSTnotes.
All-party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs)
APPGs are informal cross-party groups of Parliamentarians that meet to discuss, campaign on and promote issues around specific topics, and are often involved in developing legislative proposals. They also host events and sometimes produce reports. APPGs can be useful to academics seeking to identify and contact Parliamentarians with an interest in a certain topic. You can engage with APPGs by contacting them to tell them about your research or by attending their public events. UCL is also a member of several APPGs – find out which ones here.
Both Houses of Parliament also have a Library that produces briefing papers on all areas of policy and legislation. They are independent research units serving as a source of impartial information to Parliamentarians to support their work in scrutinising Government, proposing legislation and supporting constituents.
The Libraries welcome academic engagement. You can engage with them by familiarising yourself with their work, identifying the relevant expert and sending them relevant research. More information about the House Commons Library can be found here, and the House of Lords Library here.
There are other opportunities to engage with Parliament other than the above, but these are the main ways that academics can contribute to the Parliamentary policy landscape.
Co-authored by Robyn Parker, Bartlett Public Policy Manager, and Baris Tufekci, House of Commons Select Committee Assistant.