The Forum short course, part 2: Engaging with Parliament as a researcher

Engaging with Parliament

In part 2 of The Forum’s short course, we look at how researchers can engage with Parliament. We discuss the role of Parliament and opportunities for researchers to engage with select committees and all-party parliamentary groups. We also hear from Dr Julia Makinde about her experience of the Royal Society Pairing Scheme.

Parliament is made up of the House of Commons and House of Lords. It is responsible for making laws and scrutinising the Government.

The UK public elects 650 MPs to represent their interests in the House of Commons. MPs consider and propose new laws, and can scrutinise government policies by asking ministers questions about current issues either in the Commons Chamber or in Committees.

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It shares the task of making laws and scrutinising the work of the government. Members of the House of Lords are called Peers. They are not elected, but instead appointed. 

How to engage with Parliament

A good way to start is to find out more about MPs’ interests and Peers’ interests by looking at their individual webpages, which include their Select Committee membership and questions they have tabled. It is also a good idea to research whether your interest is relevant to particular issues in any MPs' constituencies.

There are a range of opportunities for scientists to undertake placements and work directly with Parliamentarians:

Tools for engaging with MPs and Peers

The tools below can help you to build long-term relationships with Parliamentarians. It is helpful to translate your research into an accessible and tailored format for readers, who may not be experts in your field of research.

Policy briefings

A policy briefing is a short note that summarises your research and the policies of actions you want to recommend is a good starting point. To find out more about how to write a policy briefing, please see our 'Writing a policy briefing' page.

Submitting evidence

Parliament will regularly call for evidence on current public policy priority areas. If you would like to find out more about responding to these calls, please see our 'Submitting evidence' page.

Contacting MPs and Peers

Get in touch with The Forum team if you would like to use your policy briefing or evidence submission to initiate contact with a relevant MP or Peer.

houses of parliament

Engaging with Parliamentary Select Committees

Select Committees in the House of Commons are charged with overseeing the work of a government department. Departmental Select Committees examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the principal government departments. They do this through inquiries, which involve inviting written submissions, hearing oral evidence and publishing a report to which the government must respond.

Lords Select Committees do not shadow the work of government departments. They consider specialist subjects in six main areas: Europe, science, economics, communications, the UK constitution and international relations. The Lords Science and Technology Committee is particularly well respected and its reports will invariably be debated in the House and receive a written response from the government.

If you think a Select Committee should be considering a particular issue, get in touch with The Forum team.

Open Parliamentary Select Committees calls

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Businesses and Brexit preparedness - closes 30/11/2020

Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee

Currently no inquiries.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

The future of UK music festivals - closes 9/12/2020

Economic Affairs Committee

Employment and COVID-19 - closes 11/12/2020

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

Tree Planting and Woodlands - closes 6/12/2020

Environmental Audit Committee

Food, Poverty, Health, and the Environment Committee

Currently no inquiries. 

Foreign Affairs Committee

Global health security - closes 2/12/2020

Health and Social Care Committee

Coronavirus lessons learnt - closes 30/11/2020

Joint Committee on Human Rights

Freedom of Expression - closes 6/12/2020

Public Accounts Committee

Currently no relevant inquiries.

Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Currently no inquiries.

Science and Technology Committee

Coronavirus lessons learnt - closes 30/11/2020

Transport Committee

Currently no inquiries.

Treasury Committee

Currently no inquiries. 

Engaging with All-Party Parliamentary Groups

All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament but are critical to building networks with relevant people interested in your research topic.

They are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, though many choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.

Many APPGs cover either a subject, for example aerospace, medical research or digital currencies, or a country of common interest. MPs and peers of any party can join. APPG members meet regularly to discuss the particular issue of concern. APPGs can be very receptive to contacts with outside bodies and individuals, and can provide a forum for well- informed discussion and analysis.

You can find the APPG most closely aligned with you research on the online register. Each APPG has their own page on which you will find the secretariat contact and upcoming meetings and topics. Get in touch with the secretariat to find out more about what the group is interested in, how your research can contribute and how you can get involved. Meetings are public so anybody can attend and it is a good idea to go along to get a sense of how the group works and meet some members informally. The Forum bulletin will also include all relevant upcoming APPG meetings.

Attending APPG meetings

APPG meetings are free and available to attend for everyone – you may have to register in advance though.

  • Check with the secretariat beforehand, this is also a good opportunity to build a relationship with them.
  • They will also coordinate the speakers for each meeting so more longer term, you could think about whether it would be useful for you to speak on your research findings.
  • When attending meetings, be proactive and always look for new opportunities to make contacts.
  • Keep up to date with the latest policy developments and re-initiate conversations to maintain relationships. The Forum bulletin can help you keep abreast of opportunities and developments.

All-Party Parliamentary Groups

Upcoming APPG meetings

Monday 30 November

APPG ON THE HUMAN MICROBIOME
19:00 Virtual Zoom
The therapeutic potential of diet and the gut microbiota in brain and behaviour Professor Felice Jacka will talk about the relationship between the gut microbiome and mental health. Her presentation will discuss the evidence for the gut microbiota as a key factor mediating the link between diet and mental illnesses and will highlight the potential of gut-focused interventions for the prevention and treatment of such disorders. Felice Jacka is Professor of Nutritional Psychiatry and Director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University in Australia. She has recently published a book for the general public called Brain Changer through Pan Macmillan Australia and Yellow Kite in the UK and EU. Her children’s book, There’s a Zoo in my Poo, was published in July 2020
If you would like the Zoom link for the meeting, or for further information, please contact Alan Barnard (Secretariat) by emailing alan.barnard@parliament.uk or by phone on 07931 597550

Tuesday 1 December 

APPG ETHICS & SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION
10:00 Virtual Zoom
Subject: Climate Change & Sustainability
Parliamentary Contacts: Catherine West MP Email: catherine.west.mp@parliament.uk cc: nathalie.spells@parliament.uk

APPG FOR ENERGY STUDIES
10:30 Virtual Zoom
(PGES) will launch an inquiry on 1st December to mark its 40th Anniversary. As we move beyond COVID-19 and Brexit towards CoP26, we believe that everyone is dependent on energy. Without energy, there is no vaccine, no recovery, and no economy. Subject: What are the energy policies that will drive an independent UK to net zero while fuelling the economy? Responses to be submitted by 29th January 2021. Contact details: Ian Liddell-Grainger, MP. ianlg@parliament.uk Telephone 01278 458383 - log in details will be sent to all registered attendees on the morning of the meeting. PGES’ stated purpose is to inform the Government of the day on the energy issues of the day. We want to attract responses from energy users and providers alike, so we can help MPs and Peers understand what is needed for energy policy
All parliamentarians are welcome to attend these meetings with Associate Members from industry and academia for an event that will create interesting and informative discussions

APPG ON CORONAVIRUS
11:30 Virtual Zoom
APPG ON CORONAVIRUS
Contact: Sam Payne, layla.moran.mp@parliament.uk

APPG ON TECHNOLOGY AND NATIONAL SECURITY
16:00 Virtual
Officers' meeting to vote on corporate membership
Please could the officers RSVP to darren.jones.mp@parliament.uk

Wednesday 2 December

APPG FOR UNIVERSITY
17:00 Virtual Zoom
(APPUG) The meeting will cover the recent recommendations and proposals for reform of the university admissions system from stakeholders and the government. Speakers will give an overview of the findings and recommendations of Universities UK’s Fair Admissions Review (published on 13 November) including recommendations to update the principles on fair admissions, ban ‘conditional unconditional’ offers and move to a post-qualification admissions (PQA) system. Speakers for the meeting include: Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive, Universities UK Clare Marchant, Chief Executive, UCAS Beth Linklater, Assistant Principal, Queen Mary's College Quintin McKellar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hertfordshire Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of St Andrews Meetings of the APPUG are open to MPs and Peers themselves only
To RSVP please contact daniel.zeichner.mp@parliament.uk

Thursday 3 December

APPG FOR INNOVATION CORRIDOR
15:00 Virtual
WEST ANGLIA TASKFORCE EVENT. The Innovation Corridor is the UK’s leading sci-tech region, driving investment and growth from London to Cambridge in life sciences, ICT, digital and media, AgriTech and advanced manufacturing - ensuring economic success for the whole nation. This event will cover the importance of investment in modernising and up-grading the West Anglia Mainline (WAML) to the recovery and growth of the economy of the UK Innovation Corridor. Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Minister for Railways, DfT will provide an address. There is no voting at this meeting
Please RSVP to Daniel Zeichner MP by emailing rafaelle.robin@parliament.uk by 6pm Tuesday 1st December 2020.