Politicians from all parties and at all levels of seniority will be able to easily access information and expertise. Image courtesy Shutterstock

Politicians to be offered new service for tapping the latest academic research

A national consultation about a pioneering scheme to provide British politicians with unparalleled access to the very latest academic research has been launched.

The proposed Evidence Information Service (EIS) will connect policy makers with the collective expertise of a broad network of research professionals in academia and industry.

As well as being able to contact the EIS with specific queries, relevant academics will be made available to provide targeted briefings ahead of key parliamentary debates, policy announcements and significant events.

Politicians from all parties and at all levels of seniority will be able to easily access information and expertise to ensure they have a thorough understanding of the very latest research in advance of debates, discussions and decision making.

The innovative service has been proposed by a team of collaborative academics from the University of Exeter, Cardiff University and UCL.

Dr Natalia Lawrence, a senior lecturer in translational medicine from Psychology at the University of Exeter, said: “Parliamentarians and their advisors have many vital skills, but they are incredibly busy and it is impossible for any individual or small group to have sufficient scientific knowledge to drive evidence-based debate and decision making in all areas. We need a collective hub to help generate the most accurate picture possible given the current state of knowledge. The EIS aims to complement several of the excellent existing systems by providing a service that will be broader in scope, informal, fast and minimally bureaucratic.”

The EIS will be ideal for addressing local issues faced by backbench or opposition MPs, for contributing proactively to evidence-related domains in upcoming parliamentary debates, and for addressing general science-related queries that fall outside the priority of existing systems.

Dr Chris Chambers, a senior research fellow in cognitive neuroscience at Cardiff University, added: “Evidence-based policy is more important than ever yet British democracy isn’t making the most of the extraordinary number of talented scientists and researchers under its wing – a resource that is largely funded by the public. The service we propose will help fill this need.”

In order to shape the new service, the EIS is calling for ‘local champions’ across the UK to visit their local politicians to complete a brief interview about the problems and successes they have faced obtaining and interpreting research evidence in the past.

These members of the public do not need to be scientists or research professionals – just eligible voters aged over 18 willing to carry out a short interview, for which the questions will be provided.

Those interested can visit http://doiop.com/eis or contact eis@cardiff.ac.uk for further details.

Date: 18 March 2014

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