Today, our president Professor Sir Robert Lechler PMedSci writes to our Fellows and early career researchers to urge them not to shy away from public debate ahead of the next election.
In these politically extraordinary times, I am writing to remind you that it is important that you share your expertise and take part in debate in the run up to the general election on 12 December. I believe this general election needs the voice of biomedical and health researchers more than any before.
Researchers need to have a voice in political debate
As President of the Academy, every day I am reminded of the high calibre of UK researchers and the vital role you play in improving the health and wealth of our society in the UK and globally.
The evidence generated by research, and the first-hand experiences of UK clinicians and basic scientists, are essential to inform both the manifestos of political parties and to help inform societal debate about the issues that affect us all.
Purdah rules do not affect researchers
The UK parliament has now been dissolved and purdah is in place for government and non-departmental public bodies.
In previous years there has been the mistaken belief that these rules also extend to researchers, something that led to revised guidance in 2018. This has been reflected in the robust guidance that was issued by UKRI last week that says “Pre-election restrictions do not apply to independent institutes in receipt of UKRI funding such as universities, businesses and charities etc. Researchers employed directly by UKRI in our institutes, centres and laboratories are able to publish and communicate the findings of academic work during this period but should be mindful of political impartiality.”
So independent researchers in the UK are not affected by purdah, and you should feel empowered to continue sharing your expertise, research findings and opinions as well as taking part in political debate.
The Academy will continue to promote medical science
In the run up to the election the Academy will be working with our sister academies, the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering and British Academy, to champion the importance of scientific research with political parties. This will consist of a range of activities, including a joint document to be shared with all parliamentary candidates highlighting the reasons why science, research and innovation are key to addressing the issues that voters care about. We hope to be in touch in the coming days to provide further details, but in the meantime, please do keep an eye on the General Election 2019 page on the Academy’s website.
We will also make sure the Academy’s voice continues to be heard on critical issues affecting medical science. These include the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on science, the importance of continued governmental support for research and development, the unique opportunities our NHS holds for research and ensuring immigration rules allow the UK to continue to attract the best global talent.
As you would expect we are making sure that all our activities during the general election are in line with the guidance issued by the Charity Commission.
Speaking out for our future
No one could have envisaged five years ago where our political landscape would be today. This will therefore be one of the most important general elections of modern times and this is why, as biomedical and health scientists, it is essential we make our voices heard in the 2019 general election.
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