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YAS scientists visit politicians in Westminster

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YAS members Silvia Paracchini and Paul Hoskisson are spending a week in Westminster, shadowing parliamentarians and civil servants at the House of Commons. 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 their visit Silvia is shadowing Stephen Gethins MP and Paul is shadowing Javier Igartua, an economic advisor to the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs. As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Silvia and Paul will also attend a mock Select Committee.

The visit provides scientists with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how research can be used to make evidence based decisions. It also gives parliamentarians and civil servants the opportunity to investigate the science behind their decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

Silvia said: ‘As a scientist I am keen to make my work relevant to our society, but to make this happen we need to establish trust and positive communication with all stake-holders. This is fantastic opportunity to understand politics and policy-making. The reasons that got me interested into this scheme are the same that got me into YAS. I anticipate this experience will be invaluable for some of the YAS projects I am involved with such as the Brexit Observatory’

Paul said: ‘I think this is a really exciting opportunity for scientists to engage with policy makers and help understand how our research can be implemented for the benefit of society. I believe that the role of scientists is more important than it has ever been in society and this scheme will help me to understand how we, as scientists, can communicate better with stakeholders and help evidence-based decisions be translated in to practice.’

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.

Parliamentarians and civil servant participants in the scheme will get hands-on experience of scientific research when they don lab coats to visits the scientists at their institutions next year.

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Verena Rieser is a assistant professor in the Interaction Lab at Heriot-Watt University Computer Science department. Trained as a computational linguist, Verena has applied her expertise in machine learning and natural language processing to several areas of artificial intelligence, including spoken dialogue systems, natural language generation, sentiment analysis and computational sustainability. She also works closely with industry in bringing speech technology to the market.

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