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Politicians turn Psychologists

12 Tachwedd 2009

Dr Natalia LawrenceDr Natalia Lawrence

Two Welsh MPs will be given the chance to experience life in psychological research later this month as part of an annual ‘pairing’ scheme run by the Royal Society.

Dr Natalia Lawrence from the School of Psychology has been paired with Jenny Willott, MP for Cardiff Central and Dr David McGonigle, of the Schools of Psychology and Biosciences, with Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire as part of the Royal Society’s annual MP/Scientist Pairing Scheme.

The Scheme, established in 2001 as part of the Science in Society programme, aims to build bridges between some of the best research workers in the country and members of the UK parliament.

Involving a briefing by the Royal Society, a Week in Westminster, and reciprocal visits to the constituency office and the laboratory, some 200 scientists and MPs from all parts of the UK have so far taken part.

As part of the scheme the Cardiff academics will each spend four days in Westminster (23rd - 26th November) followed by visits to one another's places of work in 2010.

Dr David McGonigleDr David McGonigle

Dr David McGonigle from the Schools of Psychology and Biosciences, who uses neuroimaging techniques to study the function of sensory systems in both health and disease said: "This partnership is a unique opportunity not only for MPs to experience life as an academic but for academics to experience life as an MP.

"The scheme is an innovative way of offering a reciprocal insight into two very different worlds. We hope that the scheme will enable some key politicians to have an insight into academics’ working lives, and hopefully emphasise the importance of basic research which we hope they will take into their political work."

Dr Natalia Lawrence, School of Psychology, who employs brain imaging and neuropsychological techniques to study emotion processing in different psychiatric disorders said: "It is becoming increasingly important for scientists to emerge from their ivory towers and engage with the media, the public and politicians. Scientific research has the potential to provide clear answers to important policy questions.

"Scientists and politicians need one another, yet the role of scientific evidence and advisors in politics is a complex and evolving issue. By fostering mutual understanding, this scheme should facilitate efficient and transparent communication between scientists and policy-makers and ensure that society understands and benefits from scientific progress."

This year’s link-up forms part of a longstanding relationship between University academics and the pairing scheme.

Previous years have seen Member of Parliament, Madeleine Moon paired with Dr Dafydd Evans of the School of Computer Sciences and Dr Helen Coxall who researches climate change in the School of Earth, Ocean and Planetary Sciences and was one of the first scientists to participate in the Royal Society MEP-Scientist pairing scheme with former MEP, Eluned Morgan.

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