13 November 2014 10:16

House of Commons (HoC) researchers are ‘hot desking’ alongside environmental scientists at Lancaster University’ Environment Centre.

The University is the first in the UK to provide permanent workspace to HoC specialists that provide evidence-based briefings to Members of Parliament, in order to share research results and expert opinions which have been described as ‘gold dust’.

Lancaster is home to one of the largest environmental research groups in Europe and the move brings their expertise closer to the decision makers in Government, helping inform debate and influence policy.

Lancaster University’s Dr Alona Armstrong developed the idea after a secondment with the Energy and Climate Change Committee (ECC) at Westminster.

She said it would give House of Commons specialists better access to a wide pool of policy-relevant research results and an understanding breadth of potential expert witnesses available at Lancaster.

She said: “In some ways Lancaster is a long way from London but the University has a vast body of high-quality research for policy makers to draw on – this kind of information has been described to us as ‘gold dust’. Bringing people face to face could make a real difference to the flow of information between policy and academia. We hope this move will benefit not only the House of Commons specialists but also our researchers who will gain experience and knowledge of what the House of Commons do and how they can contribute to the scrutiny and governance of the UK. I’ll also be incorporating the policy process in my upcoming undergraduate teaching.”

She said the new working arrangement would improve understanding of the scrutiny and policy process across the University while providing specialists, Members of Parliament and other policy making bodies with fresh data and expertise to help inform Government decision making. 

Sarah Hartwell-Naguib, Head of the Science and Environment Section of the HoC Library, is the lead in Westminster: “Elena Ares, Ed White, two specialists in my section and Vinnay Talwar, who works with the Energy and Climate Change Committee, are the first to hotdesk in Lancaster Environment Centre. They’ve got a jam-packed programme, with more researchers to meet than time available. This is a great opportunity for specialists in Parliament to enhance their knowledge and access the latest developments in research, while also engaging the academic world with Parliament and the democratic process.”

Professor Kevin Jones, Director of Lancaster Environment Centre, said: “We are committed to building links between Lancaster’s pioneering research and those who use it.  The environment is one key area where academics have a responsibility to disseminate their research findings effectively to policy makers, so it is great to see these interactions between Lancaster University and the House of Commons.”