Voice of the Future: Young astronomers and geophysicists quiz politicians
1 March saw the annual Voice of the Future (VOF) event in Parliament, where young scientists questioned politicians about the direction of UK science policy in a select committee style hearing. The pan-science session, organised by the Royal Society of Biology, brings in scientists and engineers from many different disciplines. The Science Minister, Jo Johnson, Shadow Science Minister Yvonne Fovargue, Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport, and members of the Science and Technology Select Committee all appeared as 'witnesses'. And in a first for Parliament, UK ESA astronaut Tim Peake answered two questions in a video presentation from the International Space Station.
This year the RAS sent four delegates, Dr Jo Barstow and Dr Helen Ashcroft from the University of Oxford, Indhu Varatharajan from UCL, and Helen Jermak from Liverpool John Moores University. Jo asked Jo Johnson about the impact of controls on immigration, and Indhu asked Yvonne Fovargue about the effect of high student fees. All four participants said how much they enjoyed the chance to shape the political process.
Dr Barstow commented: "It's vital that the people who will shape the next few decades of UK scientific endeavour have the opportunity to question policy makers about decisions that will affect that future." Ms Ashcroft adds, "This was a valuable opportunity for young scientists and engineers to engage with ministers and MPs, and discuss current and future scientific issues."
Images and captions
MSc student Indhu Varatharajan asks Yvonne Fovargue about the impact of high university tuition fees. Credit: Royal Society of Biology
Notes for editors
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3900 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
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