Manchester researchers take part in Parliament's first Evidence Week

A team of researchers from The University of Manchester and other universities have attended Evidence Week in Parliament to discuss issues around air quality with parliamentarians, before a House of Commons debate on the matter.

Professor Hugh Coe demonstrated constituency level air quality data to MPs, how high levels may affect local people, and discussed potential solutions for areas with dangerously high levels of pollution.

Evidence Week is an initiative of Sense about Science, the House of Commons Library, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, in partnership with SAGE Publishing. Events and briefings were produced in collaboration with community organisations, research and regulatory bodies, including the Royal Statistical Society, Alliance for Useful Evidence, UCL and The University of Manchester's Policy@Manchester team.

Community groups from all over the shared personal stories of why evidence matters to them and others like them – a gym instructor raised the absence of standards in claims about supplements, Aberdeen Multicultural Centre said evidence on climate change has cut through its community’s differences, and Men’s Shed in Sheffield asked for better knowledge about loneliness in older men.

They called for parliament to make good use of evidence and expertise to shape regulations, and to test them in the light of new information. With innovations in environmental monitoring, inequality and disease modelling, and alternative sources of data, they want parliament to be equipped with evidence which could connect policies to the real scale and causes of problems they are designed to tackle.

“I am hugely appreciative of initiatives like Evidence Week and to the organisations like Sense about Science and Policy@Manchester who organise them,” said Andrew Selous MP, South West Bedfordshire, member of the Health and Social Care Committee, part of the joint inquiry into improving air quality. “It is vital that top academics and scientists are able to take the time to connect with and brief Members so that we are properly informed and can make good decisions on matters of great importance, such as the quality of the air we breathe."

“I was part of the expert group contributing to Evidence Week in Parliament who were informing members about the latest knowledge on air pollution and explaining the current issues facing many people in local constituencies,” said Professor Hugh Coe, from The University of Manchester’s School of Earth, Atmospheric, Environmental Sciences. “This was a very successful forum to translate our latest knowledge to MPs, providing them with a strong evidence base to inform debate and policy development.”

Direct interaction between expert researchers and parliamentarians ensures the development of policy is grounded in solid evidence, and demonstrates the importance and relevance of applied research.
Professor Hugh Coe, Professor of Atmospheric Composition

“The first ever Evidence Week in parliament went well, with lots of communities coming from all over the UK to talk about why evidence matters to them, and to ask parliamentarians to seek and scrutinise evidence on their behalf, said Tracey Brown from Sense about Science.

“However, I hadn’t expected to be this impressed with the interest and commitment of MPs. Many were there to hear and respond to these community groups - from beekeepers, to ramblers, to football fans - and many more visited the stand to find out what data from their constituencies could tell them about issues as diverse as air quality, educational attainment, house prices and wages.”

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