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From Lab Bench to Backbench: University of Warwick scientist visits politicians in Westminster

  • Astronomer Dr Farzana Meru from University of Warwick will be visiting the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall this week (1 – 5 March)
  • Forms part of unique pairing scheme run by the Royal Society, which will see Matt Western MP visit Dr Meru at the University

Dr Farzana Meru from the University of Warwick will be swapping simulations for legislation when she visits Matt Western MP at the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall for a week in Westminster. The week (1 – 5 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 Meru will shadow Mr Western, who is Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington, and learn about his work. As well as attending seminars and panel discussions about how evidence is used in policy making, Dr Meru will also attend a mock Select Committee.

The visit will provide Dr Meru 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 Mr Western the opportunity to investigate the science behind his decisions and improve their access to scientific evidence.

Dr Farzana Meru is an Assistant Professor and Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow in the Astronomy & Astrophysics group at Warwick. Her research is focussed on planet formation, planet evolution and disc evolution, mostly using a variety of numerical techniques. She runs hydrodynamical simulations, using high performance computing facilities, to understand how planets form and evolve in young protoplanetary discs.

Dr Meru, from the University’s Department of Physics, said: “Scientific progress is significantly affected by governance and conversely, science policy is dependent on, and informed by, the outcome of scientific research — so it is important for the academic and political worlds to be closely connected. This scheme will help me to learn how the political world works, how my research can affect and support science policy, and provide a greater insight into the challenges faced by those in governance whose decisions greatly influence academia. I will also be able to share with my MP how academia works for example how, and at what pace, top quality science is done, what the impact and benefits of scientific research are, especially blue skies research.”

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.

Matt Western MP will get hands on experience of the discoveries to be made from protoplanetary discs when he visits Dr Meru at the University of Warwick 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.
  1. Further information about the Royal Society pairing scheme, as well as case studies, can be found at the following link:
  1. 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.
    Follow the Royal Society on Twitter (@royalsociety) or on Facebook (
  1. 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.

2 March 2020

For further information about the University of Warwick contact:

Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)


Tel: +44 (0)24 761 50868

Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863