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photograph From lab bench to backbench

Dr Lyndsey Butterworth swapped a lab coat for legislation when she met MP Chi Onwurah at the House of Commons for a visit to Westminster.

The trip, from November 28 to December 1, was part of a pairing scheme run by the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science, with support from the Government Office for Science.

During her visit, Dr Butterworth shadowed Ms Onwurah and learned about her work. As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, she also attended a mock Select Committee.

It also gave Ms Onwurah the opportunity to investigate the science behind her decisions and improve her access to scientific evidence.

Dr Butterworth has been involved in some of the policy work surrounding mitochondrial donation regulations. Last year, the House of Commons and House of Lords voted to legalise the creation of babies using biological material from three people. 

Known as ‘mitochondrial donation’, the IVF technique involves replacing faulty mitochondria inherited from the mother with the healthy mitochondria of another woman.

Dr Butterworth said: “I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to get involved with some of the policy work that took place surrounding the mitochondrial donation regulations.

“Following this, I now recognise that there is an absolute requirement for policy decisions to be based on accurate scientific evidence and understand that scientists have an important role to play in the decision-making process to ensure this happens.

“I am very keen to learn more about this and believe that the Royal Society pairing scheme was a fantastic opportunity to do so.”

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

Ms Onwurah will get hands-on experience of scientific research when she dons a lab coat to visit Dr Butterworth at Newcastle University next year.

Ms Onwurah said: “Newcastle University is a great asset to the city and I’m always keen to promote its achievements in Parliament, such as speaking on the ground-breaking mitochondrial donation technique pioneered by Newcastle’s medical faculty.

“I was therefore particularly pleased to have Dr Butterworth as my pair and to exchange perspectives. As an engineer myself, I know what an exciting career science can offer." 

Each year, 30 research scientists take part in the pairing scheme and make lasting relationships with parliamentarians and civil servants as well as fellow scientists working across many scientific disciplines.

Photo caption (l-r) Dr Lyndsey Butterworth with MP Chi Onwurah


published on: 28th November 2016


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