Time to network! Meeting the International Development Select Committee

Last week, Grantham Scholar Daniel Casey was invited to meet with the International Development Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament. Here, he explains what he learned about the important role researchers can play in policy.

Daniel Casey

Last Monday (23 November) I was lucky enough to be offered an exciting opportunity to meet the International Development Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament at a reception which early career academics were invited to. At the event there were academics present from masters level all the way up to senior lecturer level. This offered an invaluable opportunity to network (as well as enjoy the free food and drink on offer!) and meet individuals researching in a wide diversity of areas.

People had travelled down to London from as far as Newcastle for the event and I engaged with academics from Cambridge, London and East Anglia amongst others. I was interested to attend the event, as whilst International Development perhaps is not now a focus of my PhD, I come from an International Development background and it’s an area where my research could also be applied to aid policy making in the future.

During the reception academics were introduced to the select committee through brief talks delivered by Leoni Kurt (Committee Outreach Manager), Stephen Twigg MP (Committee Chair) and Rachael Cox (Committee Specialist). These talks offered insights into the vital role academics have to play within British politics both in helping select committees scrutinise different government departments’ work and aiding their decision making processes around pressing matters.

Throughout the year select committees decide what topics of inquiry they would like to explore in relation to the government’s work. A press note outlining the main themes in the inquiry is then released along with a call for written submissions. For example, at the moment the committee is examining the situation in Syria and is asking academics to help and get involved in providing them with evidence on what is currently happening. Select committees are always keen to hear from experts in the field they advertise for and academic evidence received is often heavily relied upon in different select committee’s inquiry processes. Evidence can also be provided orally at certain meetings. At the end of the process a written report is submitted to the House for consideration.

At the reception we were told some handy tips to think about when submitting evidence. It’s helpful when submitting written evidence to be as concise as possible, something which some academics (myself included!) often struggle with. Evidence should be simple to understand and not written in an overly academic manner. Additionally, evidence should include facts which the committee can use when writing their report to present to the House, and address the terms of reference of the call clearly and directly. Given that evidence is used to scrutinise policies it is also helpful if any policy recommendations are made for the committee to consider.

From the reception I was able to understand how academic work can be made more relevant to policy and applicable to society at large. Moreover, in light of the recent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the role of academic research stood out to me as being of crucial importance to the SDGs’ success and future progress. In order to make sustainable policies across societies it’s important to gather opinions from a wide variety of people on how to achieve that ideal goal.

So, are you an academic who’s interested in submitting your research to a select committee or finding out more? If you’re interested in this or for further information on how the public can engage with parliament you can visit: www.parliament.uk/outreach.

Learn more about the International Development Select Committee