Presidential election 2014: the STEM hustings

Ballot papers are already with party members and many of you may already have voted, but for those still making up their minds, we present here the STEM Hustings for election of the Liberal Democrat Party President.

Aldes are determined to ensure that the Liberal Democrats remain a party where individuals working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and medicine are heard and supported. With this goal in mind, we asked the three candidates for party president to answer the following three questions:

  1. How do you see science and engineering contributing to a stronger economy and fairer society?
  2. What is your opinion of the use of evidence in making party policy? Could it be improved?
  3. How can we make the case that the Lib Dems are the natural home for scientists, engineers, technicians and medics?

Their responses (in order of fastest response) are as follows:

key_sal-brintonSal Brinton

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I’m married to an engineer, so absolutely believe that engineers and Lib Dems go together!

How do you see science and engineering contributing to a stronger economy and fairer society?

Science and Engineering are critical to the growth of the economy. I used to be a director of the St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge, so worked with exciting new high tech companies every day. In addition to bringing in valuable export money, science and engineering also support our universities through their research, and the supply chain for a business is much more extensive than most people think.

What is your opinion of the use of evidence in making party policy? Could it be improved?

I have been on FPC for a few years, and do see evidence of evidence-based research in our policy papers (Julian Huppert’s Science paper two years ago is a good example). This isn’t universal, and could be improved. As I write this tonight I am hearing that Norman Baker has just resigned as a minister because Theresa May refuses to use evidence-based research for policies. If this is true, it is a real shame because Norman has done excellent work with the Home Office on evidence based work in the recent drugs report.

How can we make the case that the Lib Dems are the natural home for scientists, engineers, technicians and medics?

Because we are evidence based, and because as an engineer/scientist/technician/medic you will have the ability to shape & vote on party policy, which might become government policy. You don’t get that with the other parties who aren’t nearly so democratic. We are also the party that eschews ignorance in our Preamble to the Constitution – perfect for those constantly improving their learning and knowledge.

daisyDaisy Cooper

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How do you see science and engineering contributing to a stronger economy and fairer society?

Science and engineering, and especially advancements in these fields, are one of the cornerstones of our society. Investment in R&D will help to rebuild our economy and nurture the unique skills and capabilities which have historically set us apart from other countries.

A strong infrastructure, advancements in medical science and pharmaceuticals, help make a fairer society: they enable people to travel to work, to take opportunities across the UK, rather than being just centred on London and the South East.

What is your opinion of the use of evidence in making party policy? Could it be improved?

All policy must have a strong evidence base for it to be credible. I like to think that policies such as apprenticeships and our climate change goals have come about because those making the policy have looked at the research and scientific evidence to support what we are doing. There is still a tendency among some in the Party – at all levels from council through to parliament – to cling to what feels right rather than necessarily is right. We need to embed an evidence culture throughout the Party.

How can we make the case that the Lib Dems are the natural home for scientists, engineers, technicians and medics?

Part of being a liberal is to embrace all cultures, ways of life and give due respect to all views, even those which you do not agree with. Liberals historically have also been on the side of rational development, whether that is in relation to extending the franchise, abolishing privilege or understanding the importance of education. Moreoever scientific advance cannot be made if we close ourselves off from Europe or the rest of the world – internationalism helps enable discovery and strong R&D and the Lib Dems are strong advocates of this.

lizLiz Lynne

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As of the date of publishing we had not received a response from Liz Lynne to our hustings questions.