The Geek Manifesto has now been sent to more than 600 MPs, thanks to the terrific pledge campaign started by Dave Watts. A few pledgers have yet to send — please do fill out the spreadsheet and send a copy your copy if this applies to you.
My publisher, Transworld, has confirmed that they will mop up the last remaining MPs who haven’t received a book yet in due course, but the books will have much more impact if they come from individuals.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of positive engagement that so many pledgers have had from their MPs, and I’ll blog on that separately shortly. But it’s a good sign that sending these books really will encourage some MPs, if not all of them, to engage more constructively with science.
Anyway, my own pledged copy has gone to Tessa Jowell, who represents the constituency I live in, Dulwich and West Norwood. Here’s the letter I sent her. I’ll also blog here if and when I get a reply.
I hope you received the copy of my book, The Geek Manifesto, which I sent to you at the House of Commons last month. As my MP (I live in Herne Hill), I was very keen for you to have it. I hope that you might find time to read it over the forthcoming summer recess.
The book deals with the links between science and politics, and the way in which I think politicians could both manage science more effectively, and make better use of it to create policy that is properly fit for purpose. As I’m sure you’re aware, the methods of science are the most effective that humanity has yet devised for generating reliable knowledge, yet they are I think insufficiently deployed in the formulation of public policy.
There’s great potential, for example, for randomised controlled trials to be used to determine which interventions are actually likely to work, as this recent paper from the Cabinet Office shows: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/sites/default/files/resources/TLA-1906126.pdf.
Whitehall departments could also make much better use than they do of scientific advice. It was sad, for example, to see recently that your old department, Culture Media and Sport, has decided not to appoint a Chief Scientific Adviser.
The book grew in large part out of my observations of the relationship between science and politics as Science Editor of The Times for 11 years. I’ve recently moved on to become Head of Communications at the Wellcome Trust.
I appeared on Start the Week to discuss these issues recently, with David Blunkett, Professor David Nutt, and Jill Rutter of the Institute for Government. The programme is still available to listen to as a podcast: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/stw.
I understand that you have a busy summer, with your role in the Olympics, but I am sure you will find the book useful if you can find time to read it. I would also, of course, be delighted to meet you to discuss any of the issues it raises.
You may be aware that The Geek Manifesto has recently been sent to all 650 MPs, as a result of a pledge campaign started by a blogger: 325 people pledged to send a copy to their own MP, funded out of their own pockets, and my publisher agreed to match these pledges and send copies to the 325 left over. So I hope that once you’ve had time to read it, there will be plenty to discuss with your colleagues!
Thank you and best wishes.