From Lab Bench to Backbench

University of St Andrews scientist visits politicians in Westminster

Dr Silvia Paracchini from the University of St Andrews will be swapping a lab coat for legislation when she visits Stephen Gethins at the House of Commons for a week in Westminster.  The week (04 – 07 December) is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Science & Engineering (GSE) profession.

During her visit Dr Paracchini will shadow Mr Gethins and learn about his work.  As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Dr Paracchini will also attend a mock Select Committee. 

The visit will provide Dr Paracchini with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how her research can be used to make evidence based decisions.  It will also give Mr Gethins the opportunity to investigate the science behind his decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

Dr Paracchini said: Now more than ever, we need to establish positive channels of communication to consolidate trust and respect between scientists and the public and promote evidence-based policy making. This scheme is a fantastic opportunity to both understand how different sections of the Parliament work and to discuss directly with politicians issues of key importance for scientists going from the science budget to immigration policies.  As a EU national I am delighted to shadow Stephen Gethins who is doing lots of important work in this area.

Mr Gethins said he was delighted that Dr Paracchini had been chosen by the Royal Society to shadow him at Westminster. He said: “Staff at the University of St Andrews are of extremely high calibre and it is always a pleasure to welcome them to Parliament. Silvia and the team she works with carry out exceptionally important work in the field of neurogenetics and I look forward to visiting them all soon.”

The Royal Society’s pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.

Mr Gethins will get hands on experience of scientific research when he dons a lab coat to visits Dr Paracchini at the University of St Andrews next year.

Silvia’s blog on her time in Westminster can be found on her website.


The Royal Society pairing scheme is in its 17th Since it started in 2001, 400 scientists, 169 MPs, 5 Peers and 125 civil servants have taken part in the scheme. Previous participants include Sir Alan Duncan, Foreign Office Minister, Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Caroline Lucas, Co-leader of the Green Party.

Further information about the Royal Society pairing scheme, as well as case studies, can be found at the following link:

The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society’s strategic priorities emphasise its commitment to the highest quality science, to curiosity-driven research, and to the development and use of science for the benefit of society. These priorities are:

  • Promoting excellence in science
  • Supporting international collaboration
  • Demonstrating the importance of science to everyone

For further information please visit Follow the Royal Society on Twitter at or on Facebook at

The scheme is supported by the Government Science & Engineering (GSE) Profession, managed from within The Government Office for Science. The Government Office for Science ensures that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking. It is led by the Government’s Interim Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, who advises the Prime Minister and Cabinet on all scientific matters.

The Government Office for Science is responsible for giving scientific advice to the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, through a programme of projects that reflect the priorities of the government, ensuring and improving the quality and use of scientific evidence and advice in government (through advice and projects and by creating and supporting connections between officials and the scientific community), providing the best scientific advice in the case of emergencies, through the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and helping the independent Council for Science and Technology provide high level advice to the Prime Minister.



For further information about the Royal Society contact:

Danielle Haddad
Assistant Press Officer

The Royal Society

Tel: 020 7451 2508