As part of my PhD doctoral training my funding body, BBSRC, expects me to take a bit of a break from my research project to embark on a 3 month internship. My internship was based at Sense about Science EU in Brussels and the main body of work I conducted was geared towards finding speakers and beginning the organisation of and event called Evidence Matters EU.
Evidence Matters is a campaign run by both Sense about Science and Sense about Science EU and is all about the citizen. The Evidence Matters campaign is working to mobilise citizens and provide them with a voice to let politicians know why evidence-based policy making is important in their everyday lives. Working on the Evidence Matters event was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship due to the sheer diversity of the citizens Sense about Science were connecting with. You can therefore imagine my excitement when I was invited to attend the event on 21st June in European Parliament, Brussels. I jumped at the opportunity and I couldn’t be more glad that I did.
The gloriously hot weather upon my arrival in Brussels on 21st June set the tone for the rest of the day! Upon arrival, the citizens were taken for a tour of European Parliament which was followed refreshments (including wine!!) at a near-by establishment. There was a lot of excitement and nerves among the citizens about the 1 minute speeches they were giving. The atmosphere was certainly one of enthusiasm and anticipation. The event was hosted by Julie Girling, Marco Affronte and Jan Huitema and co-hosted by Ricardo Serrão Santos with Eva Kaili, Carlos Moedas, and Mairead McGuinness present as panel members. After an introductory word by Sense about Science EU director, Sofie Vanthournout, it was time!! The 16 citizens took to the floor! Each citizen stood up for a minute and, in their native language, explained why evidence-based policy making is integral to their everyday lives. Having the citizens speak in their mother-tongue was extremely powerful as the emotion when talking could be more clearly observed. The variety of languages also displayed clearly that concern regarding evidence-based policy is a Europe wide discussion. English translations of what each citizen was expressing were provided on the screen, allowing a clear understanding of each individuals concerns ranging from sustainable hunting to evidence-based medical treatments.
Once the citizens had spoken the MEPs were given an opportunity to respond. The MEPs all seemed to hold an extremely positive opinion of the event. The event finished with an opportunity for the MEPs to connect with citizens and discuss their concerns.
‘This has been one of the best events.’ Mairead McGuinness
Once the event had come to a conclusion the Sense about Science team took the citizens to a bar nearby to taste the famed Belgian beer! The event had such a clear ethos and was a fantastic opportunity that I can’t thank the Sense about Science EU and London offices enough for providing me with the experience. The Evidence Matters EU event was a roaring success and hopefully is just the beginning of many more to come from Sense about Science EU…I can’t wait to see what the future brings!