Select committees are almost the only place in parliament where MPs actually do what you’d naively hope they do all the time: sit down, hear a lot of evidence on an important issue, and then have a good hard think about it. The Science and Technology committee in particular have produced some fascinating and readable documents over the years. The report on the abortion act offered transparent, evidence based policy advice, package up in a very good piece of accessible popular science writing. (It also ended with a memorable tantrum from some christians). The House of Lords equivalent, meanwhile, did a very good piece of work on the public understanding of science in 2000, during the aftermath of GM and BSE.
Now SciTech has merged into DIUS, and they are asking us, which means you and me, “the public”, for topics that deserve a good hard think. We have until Friday 27th February to come up with something good, and I thought you might have some interesting ideas?
Off the top of my head, while I wait for the toilet to become free, here are a few quick thoughts:
- the inappropriateness of teaching quackery badly in university science degrees (far more important than consumers getting “ripped off” for pills, imho);
- the responsibility for accuracy in the media with regards to science, its impact on health risk behaviour, and most interestingly, the practicalities of regulation;
- the pharmaceutical industry’s ugly habit of hiding unflattering data;
- ways of improving the access that doctors and patients have to good quality summaries of clinical evidence;
- consent and regulatory issues around the use of anonymised health records in clinical research;
- given that we struggle to engage children with science, while half of all science coverage is health, and people are clearly very engaged in these issues around risk: should evidence based medicine, basic epidemiology and trial design, be taught in schools?
I’m sure you’ll have more, post them below, send them in to the committee directly (maybe copy us in the comments for archive), or just hassle me to write up your half formed ideas into a nice letter for you (and don’t forget to ask your MP to sign this Early Day Motion on MMR and the media, it only takes five minutes).
INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES, SCIENCE & SKILLS
Select Committee Announcement
Committee Office, House of Commons, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA
Tel. No. 020 7219 2794 Fax. No. 020 7219 0896 Email: email@example.com
11 February 2009
No. 15 (08-09)
Subjects for scrutiny: have your say
The House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee is issuing an open call for topics suitable for an oral evidence hearing in Westminster in April or May this year. The Committee – which includes members from the former Education and Skills Committee and the Science and Technology Committee – has a remit to look at all matters within the responsibility of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Topics must be within this remit and should also:
- not already be under examination by the Committee as part of another inquiry (see the Committee’s website for details of current work)
- be capable of being covered in two hours of oral evidence, with two panels of witnesses (the second panel normally being Ministers or officials, no more than four witnesses on any panel)
- be timely
- not relate to individual cases/any matters before the Courts or Tribunals.
Please send us, in a total of 750 words or less:
(1) Your suggested topic
(2) Why it is timely to hold a meeting in April or May
(3) What value you think a hearing would add
(4) Your suggested witnesses.
You should also declare any interests you have in making the suggestion.
Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 27 February.