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Wow factor: inaugural Science Meets Parliament BC a success from start to finish

May 09, 2024

A large group of researchers stand outside the Legislative Assembly of BC

On April 22 and 23, 2024, 31 early-career scholars (pictured above)—a dozen from UVic—were fêted by the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and Speaker Raj Chouhan. Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) explained (and then demonstrated during Question Period) how policy making works in our province. And in return, the researchers explained their work to very engaged MLAs.

 “I really enjoyed the first day panel sessions by ministers and deputy ministers about evidence-based decision making,” says UVic mechanical engineer Sravya Tekumalla, who studies 3D printing with metals. “Also, the session by the Clerk Assistant of the Legislative Assembly on how the legislative process works and the functions of Legislative Assembly was a great refresher. And on the second day, I shadowed Attorney General Niki Sharma in her meetings – each so distinct from the other. After that, we had a conversation about research, and she was really excited to learn about the intricacies and potential of metal additive manufacturing and asked some amazing questions about the future of manufacturing and our research at the University of Victoria.” And then Tekumalla met with Richmond MLA Aman Singh, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, which was especially exciting as she develops new methods and materials for environmental sustainability and reduced carbon emissions.

From the opening tour of Government House on day one through to the closing reception on day two, Tekumalla enjoyed every meeting and insight.

As did organizer and UVic mechanical engineer Marianne Black, who had attended the national Science Meets Parliament event in Ottawa last spring.

“This was the first provincial edition of the annual program organized by the Canadian Science Policy Centre,” she explains. “It went very smoothly and I’m incredibly happy with how it turned out.”

While the federal event is open to Tier II Canada Research Chairs and Banting postdoctoral fellows, the BC organizing team was deliberately more inclusive. They opened it up to applications from researchers at all BC universities who are within the first ten years of their faculty appointment and postdoctoral fellows with a Banting fellowship or tri-agency funding.

“And we defined ‘science’ very broadly,” says Black. “We considered ‘scientific process’ more.”

That led to a range of participants from the social sciences, health, science, engineering, mathematics, business and Indigenous governance.

“The buy-in from the Speaker, Raj Chouhan, was incredible,” Black says. “The MLAs were very excited to understand the research topics and to share their strategies and policies. They explained the range of their priorities and what they considered when they made their decisions.

“It’s a very different experience from anything in engineering,” Black says. “Engineers think about how our work can help people. Science Meets Parliament shows us how sharing our work can affect policy.”


Rachel Goldsworthy