From lab bench to backbench

Press/Media: Research


From Lab Bench to Backbench

University of Aberdeen scientist visits civil servants in Westminster

Dr Silvia Gratz from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute will be swapping a lab coat for legislation when she visits Ms Elizabeth Downes 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 her visit, Dr Gratz will shadow Ms Downes and learn about her work at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Dr Gratz will also attend a mock Select Committee.

The visit will provide Dr Gratz with a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how her research can be used to make evidence-based decisions. It will also give [parliamentarian/civil servant] the opportunity to investigate the science behind her decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

Dr Gratz said: “I am really delighted to be part of such a unique scheme and am looking forward to spending time at Westminster. The opportunity to gain an insight into the work that DEFRA carry out is really exciting, and I will also look forward to welcoming Elizabeth to the Rowett Institute to show her what we are working on in the labs!”

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.

Ms Downes will get hands on experience of work conducted at the Rowett Institute when she dons a lab coat to visits Dr Gratz at University of Aberdeen later this year.



  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 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.
  4. Follow the Royal Society on Twitter (@royalsociety) or on Facebook (
  5. 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 further information about the Royal Society contact: Jesse Hawley, Assistant Press Officer, The Royal Society, Tel: 020 7451 2508 E-mail:

Period2 Mar 2020

Media coverage


Media coverage

  • TitleFrom Lab Bench to Backbench
    Media name/outletUniversity of Aberdeen
    Media typeWeb
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    DescriptionDr Silvia Gratz from the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute will be swapping a lab coat for legislation this week when she visits Ms Elizabeth Downes at the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall for a week in Westminster.
    PersonsSilvia Gratz