From lab bench to backbench

13 March 2020

Earlham Institute scientist Dr Paddy Sudhakar visits politicians in Westminster to explore the link between science and policy-making

Dr Paddy Sudhakar from the Earlham Institute on Norwich Research Park explored the link between science and policy-making when he visited his local Norwich South constituency MP Clive Lewis at the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall for a week in Westminster. The week (1st – 5th March) is part of a unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society—the UK’s national academy of science—with support from the Government Office of Science.

During his visit, Dr Sudhakar shadowed Clive Lewis and learned about life as a high-profile MP. As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Paddy also participated in a mock Select Committee.

The visit provided Dr Sudhakar, who works in close collaboration with KU Leuven, with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how his research can be used to make evidence-based decisions. It will also give parliamentarians the opportunity to investigate the science behind their decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

Dr Sudhakar said: “The Pairing Scheme was an eye-opener for me in policy making. Scientists tend to think policymaking is dependent on just valid and robust scientific evidence. In reality, policy making is influenced, in addition to evidence, by various other factors, such as delivery mechanisms, economics, political ideologies, and demography to name a few. It also provided me with a glimpse into various frameworks in the Parliamentary system which can facilitate the translation of evidence into policy. I would strongly recommend the Pairing programme to my colleagues.”

Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, President of the Royal Society, said, “It is crucial that we invest in the relationship between scientists and politicians, so that either profession can articulate and appreciate the pressures confronted by both. The Royal Society Pairing Scheme does just this, endowing scientists with a fascinating insight into parliament, and connecting policymakers with the best innovative thinking in the world, and in the process, enabling both to draw from and engage with the mutual expertise needed to address the challenges of our time.” 

The Royal Society’s pairing scheme, which started in 2001, aims to build bridges between parliamentarians, civil servants and some of the best scientists in the UK.

MP Clive Lewis will get hands on experience of scientific research when he dons a lab coat to visit Paddy and other fellow scientists at the Earlham Institute later this year.

Notes to editors.

Notes to editors

1.  The Royal Society pairing scheme is in its 19th year. By the end of this year’s scheme, 455 scientists will have taken part, shadowing a mixture of MPs, peers, civil servants and select committee staff. That is enough scientists to fill the green benches in the House of Commons, and still leave 55 standing. Previous politicians who have participated include Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister, Chi Onwurah MP, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Caroline Lucas MP, the Green Party. You can find a list of past participants here.

2.  Further information about the Royal Society pairing scheme, as well as case studies, can be found at the following link:

3.  The scheme is supported by The Government Office for Science. The Government Office for Science ensures that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking.

For more information, please contact:

Peter Bickerton

Scientific Communications and Outreach Manager, Earlham Institute (EI)

  • +44 (0)1603 450 994

For further information about the Royal Society contact:

Jesse Hawley

Assistant Press Officer

The Royal Society

  • 020 7451 250




About Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research Institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £5.43m in 2017/18 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.


About the Royal Society

The Royal Society is a self-governing fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.