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MSPs and YAS members pair up for evidence-based policymaking

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New programme brings together MSPs and young researchers and professionals to promote evidence-based policy solutions

A group of young researchers and professionals will enter Holyrood today as part of a new pairing scheme which encourages constructive relationships between policymakers and emerging leaders from across Scotland’s academic and professional domains.

The scheme pairs MSPs with young leaders drawn from the RSE’s Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) whose backgrounds span science, business and the arts. Through reciprocal shadowing in their respective workplaces, they will learn about each other’s work and build bridges to work together on evidence-based policy in the future.

The policymakers participating are: Liz Smith, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife; Andy Wightman, MSP for Lothian; Anas Sarwar, MSP for Glasgow; Jenny Gilruth, MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes; and Finlay Carson, MSP for Galloway & West Dumfries.

The five YAS members participating in the scheme work in marine science, evolutionary biology, research development, classics and tourism.

The pairing scheme is being launched today with a programme of sessions at the Scottish Parliament to provide insight into how policy is formed and how they may use their research and practical expertise to contribute.

The shadowing portion of the scheme will begin at Holyrood tomorrow, when YAS members will accompany their MSPs in their parliamentary work. The scheme will continue into the coming months with two additional days of shadowing: one at MSP’s constituency offices, and one at YAS members’ place of work.

It is intended that this will become an annual programme and that different MSPs and YAS members will be paired each year to diversify the knowledge shared between participants.

This scheme was inspired by a similar, long-running scheme administered by the Royal Society of London that sees scientists paired with Members of the UK Parliament.

Sir Paul Grice FRSE, Clerk and Chief Executive of the Scottish Parliament, said:

“Policymakers must gain expert input on the decisions they make and having collaborative relationships with researchers and professionals who are not only leaders in their field, but also understand how policy develops allows them to do this.  I am delighted that this new pairing scheme will facilitate long-term relationships between parliamentarians and young leaders and I look forward to seeing the results of their shared experiences.”

Professor Andy Gardner, the YAS member who led the development of this pairing scheme said:

“When policymakers and experts work together, policy outcomes are more rigorous, relevant and informed.  In establishing this scheme, the RSE Young Academy of Scotland hopes to foster lasting relationships between parliamentarians and young leaders to ensure that the best evidence and expertise informs policy decisions that affect the lives of Scotland’s people. 

“We are delighted that there has been such a positive response from Scotland’s politicians to this scheme, and a willingness to participate.   We are also grateful to the staff of the Scottish Parliament for their time and support.”

Dr Silvia Paracchini FRSE, a YAS member who participated in the Royal Society of London’s Westminster pairing scheme, said of that experience:

“Taking part in the Westminster pairing scheme has been a truly transformative experience. In addition to shadowing my local MP Stephen Gethins, I gained a much better understanding of how different parts of the Parliament contribute to policy making. This was an incredibly useful insight if we want to ensure that scientific evidence is taken into account when making decisions.”

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I am a leading young researcher in thermal ecology and biogeography, with particular expertise in understanding how anthropogenic habitat modification affects species distributions and the evolutionary process.

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