How to help ensure that science retains a voice in parliament
Every professional scientist in the UK should be hoping that the city of Cambridge returns Dr Julian Huppert as its MP in June. In Mark Henderson's The Geek Manifesto (Bantam Press, 2012), the bare facts are laid out:
"There are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. Some 158 have a background in business, and 90 were political advisers or organisers. There are 86 lawyers, and 38 journalists and publishers. These professions bring valuable perspectives, but another one is all but missing. A solitary MP – Julian Huppert, the Liberal Democrat member for Cambridge – worked as a research scientist before beginning his political career. Only two of his colleagues even have science PhDs."
When it comes to science issues, Julian Huppert was often the only voice of experience in the room. And this matters. The House of Commons has what are often called "harmless eccentrics" on all sides.
One MP has warned parliament that "science has worked out that pregnancy, hangovers and visits to one's GP may be affected by the awesome power of the moon". You may have rolled your eyes at many other examples of scientific ignorance over the years.
But without someone to speak up against it, don't think that this sort of nonsense won't influence policy-making. It can quite easily do so. We'd all like dozens of voices speaking up for the professional science sector, but at the minimum we need one. Nobody knows if any new scientists will be elected to parliament in May, so for the future of our multi-billion pound sector, we need to Elect the one voice we've already got.
That's why, if you're involved in any way in the science sector, you should be rooting for Julian Huppert to be elected. Julian is calling for a sustained increase in a ring-fenced science and research budget and he says that he will ensure that the case continues to be made. There are thousands of jobs on the line.
Yes, there is, whether you're an individual or an organisation, and whether you're in Cambridge or not. Most important of all is encouraging people to vote for Julian Huppert. Even if you're not in Cambridge, you may know people who are. Remind them that despite what the media would have us believe, we're not voting for the next prime minister, we're voting for our local MP. The importance of understanding and supporting science in the UK won't need any explanation, but not everyone realises the importance of Julian Huppert's Election to science.
Email friends and colleagues a link to this page, or tweet a link to it. Share this page on Facebook. Or link to some of the articles below. You could even blog about the subject. This transcends party politics and is about the future of science in the UK. Every message and every conversation helps - yours as much as anyone's.