I was recently fortunate enough to attend a workshop as part of Parliament Week, looking at how Parliament uses research. Tomas Williams, South West Senior Education Engagement Officer for UK Parliament, delivered the workshop which gave an overview of Parliament and ways to work with the institution, including details on Select Committees, legislative scrutiny, the House of Commons and House of Lords libraries and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).
As a person who channel-hops past Parliament TV quicker than the Brexit bus was hastily scrapped, I was intrigued as to how real research reaches Parliament (without resorting to railroading local MPs whilst they are doing their weekly shop).
So, besides the above option, Tomas highlighted five ways to get your research on the agenda:
Select committees advise Parliament on various topics. The different committees specialise in specific subject areas and focus on relevant areas of interest/debate. The committees commission inquiries into these areas, requesting evidence. They then report their findings to the Government, who have to provide a written response.
By seeking out select committees that relate to your own research, you can submit evidence to current inquiries, and view reports and publications following previous inquiries.
Commons and Lords Libraries
The Commons Library and Lords Library (separate entities) supply impartial briefing papers to parliamentarians, to provide them with the facts before topics are debated. The libraries will looks at what topics are coming up in Parliament, and put relevant information together ready for all parties to refer to. All research briefing papers are available online for anyone to view. You can contact authors to suggest edits or corrections, as well as make your own research known.
POST – Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology
POST works in a similar way to the aforementioned libraries, however, it is peer-reviewed and takes a more pro-active approach to providing information. POSTnotes (four page summaries) and POSTbriefs (responsive policy briefings) are compiled to provide independent analyses of public policy issues. You can suggest topics for POSTnotes and POSTbriefs and contact the POST scientific advisors directly.
All draft bills can be viewed online. A draft bill is published to enable consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny before it is introduced formally into the House of Lords or House of Commons. You can contact the individual authors/authoring parties to provide feedback on the bills.
All Party Parliamentary Groups
APPGs are essentially informal interest groups (similar to select committees) that include both Lords and MPs, focusing on specific areas of interest. See the full register of APPGs here. Here you can see who is on each committee, providing a clear communication route with parliamentarians who are relevant to your research. This provides an alternative to local MPs, who may not be aware/interested in your specialist area (although they are always contacting in the first instance).
Finally, another resource that may assist in providing channels into the world of parliament is the Universities Policy Engagement Network. This is a group of higher education institutions that offer a dedicated contact point for policymakers, and a collective response to requests for evidence. They organise regular events, as well as featuring latest news and blogs on their website, so definitely worth a look to gauge the topics/issues/interests of like-minded HE contemporaries.
Parliament’s Knowledge Exchange unit can be contacted for any queries or questions: Sarah Foxen () or Naomi Saint (). Tweet/follow @UKParl_Research.