UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science


Secretary of Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology visits the Stanmore Campus

7 June 2017

Dr Tom Carlson took part in the Royal Society Pairing Scheme 2016 and was paired with Jennifer Smookler, Secretary of Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology. The scheme brings policymakers and scientists together; giving an insight into each other’s worlds and helps them to understand how scientific evidence can be used in the policy-making process.

In November 2016, Dr Carlson spent a week in Westminster visiting the Houses of Parliament and various Government offices. During this enlightening experience he met with a number of politicians and civil servants, as well as 33 other scientists from around the UK. The schedule comprised several behind-the-scenes tours; a mix of seminars about the Executive and Legislative powers and processes; the manifold opportunities for getting science into policy-making; time for shadowing the pair; a few one-to-one meetings; and even a mock Select Committee in the House of Lords.

On 18th May 2017, Ms Smookler and a couple of her colleagues made a reciprocal visit to Dr Carlson’s lab, Aspire Create, at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital on the UCL’s Stanmore Campus. They followed an equally ambitious agenda, meeting with Mr Brian Carlin – Chief Executive, Aspire; Mr Rob Hurd – Chief Executive, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital; Prof Vivek Mudera – Director, UCL Division of Surgery and Interventional Science. Ms Smookler also met several of our staff and students as she embarked on a whistle-stop tour of the Aspire Create lab, the Motor Learning lab and the Research Innovation Centre.

At lunchtime, the IOMS Student Centre was packed with staff and students for Ms Smookler’s seminar: “Getting Science into Government”. Many of the subsequent questions revolved around what students and academics could do to get their research considered in policy.  The answers were unanimous; it’s all about visibility and communication skills. Policy-makers are rarely experts in our niche fields, so we should make the most of public engagement opportunities to practice getting our message across to more diverse audiences.

The visit provided a refreshing reminder that we, as scientists, can affect policy and regulations. Whilst we can’t all be Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, there is plenty we can do to influence: respond to calls for evidence from Select Committees; take up / spread the word about internships in the Government Office for Science (GO-Science) and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST); lobby our MPs about science policy.

Thanks to the Royal Society for running this unique and insightful scheme.