Scientists find a parallel world

December 12, 2003

"When you are inside Parliament you get the impression that very few people know about science. That needs to change," Mark Lancaster, one of the partners in an experimental Royal Society scheme pairing scientists and MPs, said last week.

Dr Lancaster, a researcher in the high-energy physics group at University College London, spent last week shadowing Labour MP and mathematical philosopher Tony McWalter, writes Anna Fazackerley.

But he has no desire to do Mr McWalter's job. "Scientists get a buzz from working on one thing. Politicians work on 28 different things all day. And it's not a healthy lifestyle," he said.

Harriet McWatters, a plant scientist at Oxford University who was paired with Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, agreed that life in politics was a "parallel universe".

But she said that scientists and politicians needed to work to create stronger relationships, with academics using local MPs and select committees to voice concerns. Her time with Dr Harris reassured her that at least some MPs were prepared to listen.

"Politicians are determining how scientists do their work so a relationship is necessary," Dr McWatters said.

Details: email dialogue@royalsoc.ac.uk .

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