In the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can all see how essential it is that decision-makers are able to rapidly get to grips with all kinds of evidence, and be able to lead informed policymaking in a complicated and quickly changing situation. Parliament’s role is to scrutinise what the government does and to look at and understand issues that affect their constituents in the UK. That is why Sense about Science launched Evidence Week in Westminster two years ago – to make sure that MPs have their hands on the best tools and information to hold the government to account. Right now, I’m sure you, along with us, feel that this is urgently needed.

In 2020, we were unable to hold a physical event in Upper Waiting hall where constituents and researchers can meet MPs to discuss urgent policy issues. With our communications partners, POST, the UK Statistics Authority, Office for Statistics Regulation, and Ipsos MORI, we created an innovative new way of replicating this experience online. From 16th- 20th November, Evidence Week in Westminster looked at evidence on a range of issues including Covid-19, AI, and climate, that Parliamentary committees, constituents and researchers are grappling with.

Read our round up of Evidence Week 2020.

How it worked

We teamed up with Soapbox and Brella to bring Evidence Week in Westminster to an online platform, with all the opportunities of the physical event and more.

The opening event on Monday 16th November involved community groups and constituents leading a discussion on how well equipped the government and parliament are to understand and use scientific information.

On the afternoons of Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th November, top researchers shared their expertise with parliamentarians in a live exhibition. This was an opportunity for leading researchers across a range of complex policy issues to engage MPs in discussions on the evidence around these issues that affect constituents. Through the online platform, MPs, Peers and parliamentary staff were able to hear 3-minute video briefings and jump into meeting rooms with the researchers themselves to instantly discuss emerging evidence and potential strategies for tackling complex policy problems.

On Friday 20th November, a researcher training event offered customised resources and expertise to MP’s staffers to help them find new techniques for quickly understanding complicated evidence derived from data science. The use of algorithms and AI is developing quickly and keeping up with its capabilities, and ensuring appropriate use and control is one of the major challenges of this century.

Throughout the week, researchers, constituents, and parliamentarians used the platform to share ideas about evidence in policy and the opportunities and challenges it offers.

Evidence Week is supported by our lead partner, the Institute of Physics.