Morven Chisholm: Appliance of science to politics can only benefit the sharing of knowledge

This May, the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) will launch the first year of its annual pairing scheme in which members are paired with MSPs.

YAS member, Dr Silvia Paracchini FRSE, and her local MP Stephen Gethins.

YAS comprises around 130 young professionals and academics and seeks to foster interdisciplinary ­activities among emerging leaders across the sciences and humanities, the professions, the arts, business and civil society.

The aim of the scheme is to bring YAS members together with ­Scotland’s policy makers to improve dialogue and support the two groups to work effectively together on ­evidence-based policy solutions in the future.

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In this, its first year, five YAS ­members, representing a range of disciplines and organisations, will be paired with five MSPs. The MSPs ­participating this year are Liz Smith and Finlay Carson (Conservative), Andy Wightman (Green), Anas ­Sarwar (Labour) and Jenny Gilruth (SNP).

Morven Chisholm, YAS Manager

On the first day of the pairing, YAS members will learn about the work of the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) and how they can feed in to its important work, and will also sit in on parliamentary committees.

During the second day, YAS ­members will shadow their MSP, ­sitting in on committee work, attending First Minister’s Questions, and learning about the work undertaken by their MSP’s staff.

The shadowing will continue with the YAS member joining the MSP for their constituency or regional work, and finally the MSP will undertake a reciprocal visit to the YAS member’s place of work.

The pairing scheme is inspired by a similar, long-running scheme administered by the Royal Society of London that sees scientists paired with members of the Westminster Parliament.

One YAS member, Dr ­Silvia Paracchini FRSE, took part in the ­Royal Society scheme, being paired with her local MP Stephen Gethins, ­pictured left.

She said: “Taking part in the Westminster pairing scheme has been a truly transformative experience. In addition to shadowing my local MP Stephen Gethins at a hectic time (it was a week when we thought we were close to a Brexit deal… in December 2017), I gained a much better ­understanding of how different parts of the parliament contribute to ­policy ­making.

“This was an incredibly useful insight if we want to ensure that ­scientific evidence is taken into account when making decisions.”

The success of this London-based scheme prompted YAS to establish its own scheme in Scotland.

Andy Gardner, who led on the establishment of this scheme and will be taking part in the pairing this year, said of this project: “We are delighted that there has been such a positive response from Scotland’s politicians to this scheme, and a willingness to participate.

“We are also grateful to the staff of the Scottish Parliament for their time and support.”

Our hope is that YAS ­members and MSPs will continue to share knowledge, learn from each ­other and benefit from each ­other’s expertise and networks.

Morven Chisholm, YAS ­manager.