How can academics shape government policy?

Claire Bogue, Senior Learning Projects officer at UK Parliament explores the role of select committees, and why academics have a part to play

UK Parliament Select Committees: What role can academic research play?

Parliamentary Select Committees are a key juncture between academic research and Parliament, and as their recommendations can impact and influence public policy, engaging with them has never been so important.

How Select Committees work

A large amount of the work of both Houses of Parliament takes place away from the debating chambers in select committees. Here, you’ll find a much more consensual approach to the work, as committee members work across party lines to conduct in-depth scrutiny of the work of government departments and their arm’s length bodies, as well as delving into more topical and cross-cutting issues.

Select committees generally work by an investigatory processes – gathering evidence, collecting data, and interviewing witnesses. By basing their findings on the evidence – rather than simply along party lines – a committee’s report has genuine weight. Any recommendations put forward as part of a final report have the cross-party backing from its members and can be seen as credible solutions.

Even if your research only covers one aspect of an inquiry you may provide a different point of view, so it’s still worth responding and sharing your unique perspective.

Engaging with Select Committees: an academic’s perspective

Engaging with Parliament’s select committees as an academic can lead to all sorts of positive outcomes. It can raise the profile of your research, demonstrate impact and has the potential to shape future policy.

When Parliament’s select committees announce an inquiry, they invite the public – including academics – to submit written evidence. These ‘open calls for evidence’ specify the questions a committee seeks to answer. Even if your research only covers one aspect of an inquiry you may provide a different point of view, so it’s still worth responding and sharing your unique perspective.

Submitting written evidence is fairly simple – it is usually just a matter of filling out an online form and uploading a word document with your evidence. It’s important to include a summary of your evidence along with ensuring it is original, concise, and includes paragraph numbers will also help to give your evidence more of an impact.

Based on the evidence they receive, a select committee will then invite various organisations and individuals to come to Parliament to give oral evidence. Though it may seem a little daunting, this is an opportunity to explore and expand on the evidence submitted in writing.

Our new free online course, UK Parliament Explored: the Work and Role of Select Committees, introduces learners to the work of the select committees step-by-step, through articles, discussions and interviews with select committee chairs. It explains the steps in the inquiry process, explores how select committees are innovating to effect change, and reflects on the range of ways select committees can be impactful. For students and early career academics who may consider submitting evidence to a select committee, it’s a great introduction to how they can engage with the UK Parliament.

UK Parliament Explored: the Work and Role of Select Committee launches online on 5 March on the social learning platform, FutureLearn.

To explore the range of opportunities for academic researchers to work with and impact the work of the UK Parliament, visit their website.