From green bench to lab bench - MP visits TSL

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Norman Lamb MP, chair of the Science and Technology Select Committee, swapped the green benches of the House of Commons for the lab benches of The Sainsbury Laboratory on a visit to Norwich Research Park.

The MP for North Norfolk was visiting TSL as the guest of post doctoral researcher Dr Marina Pais.

The visit is part of a scheme which pairs scientists with parliamentarians and civil servants so that they can learn more about each other’s worlds and explore how research findings can inform policy making.


Mr Lamb visited laboratories and glasshouses to see at first hand the work of Dr Pais who researches UK potato varieties. Her current project involves incorporating late blight resistance genes from a wild potato relative into a cultivated Maris Piper potato.

“It’s been fascinating... Marina is so good at describing clearly the processes she is working through and it’s been a very clear demonstration of the potential value to society of this ground-breaking research,” said Mr Lamb

“I think policy should be focussed on evidence rather than emotion, and I have heard about the enormous potential and environmental gains they are making with a vegetable like potato in enabling, subject to regulation facilitating it, farmers to grow potatoes without having to use so many chemicals.”

The exchange saw Dr Pais visit Westminster in December last year to find out more about the workings of Parliament as Mr Lamb’s guest.

Reflecting on her motivation for the exchange Dr Pais said: “I think it’s very important to get out of the lab and show our values and the motivations behind what we do.

“I want to know that what I do has some impact on society. For that to happen we need decision makers on our side. I’ve learned about the many channels that feed into the policy making process.”

The Royal Society Pairing Scheme is in its 17th year. Since it started in 2001 400 scientists, 169 MPs and 125 civil servants have taken part in the scheme.

Dr Pais is one of 30 scientists to take part in this latest round of visits

For information about the scheme go to: