Past events

Behavioural economics (PDF PDF 493 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, March 2010

Lord Oxburgh hosted a seminar exploring the links between the economy and human psychology. Research in behavioural economics highlights how cognitive and social factors can determine our fiscal behaviour. This seminar featured presentations from leading economists and psychologists who highlighted how policymaking - from tackling consumer debt to incentivising saving for retirement - could take account of the human aspects of financial decision making.

This event followed recent work on the subject - a briefing on Delaying gratification (PDF PDF 112 KB) and a podcast on short-term thinking featuring an interview with Dr Vince Cable MP.

Robotic Visions: young people's views on the future of robotics technology (PDF PDF 221 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, March 2010

This event provided an opportunity for parliamentarians and other interested parties to understand public concerns about robotics research. Attendees heard how the Robotic Visions programme has brought together young people and researchers to explore current and future robotics research.

Land Use Futures
Parliamentary seminar, March 3 2010, 10am - midday, Jubilee Room, Houses of Parliament

This meeting discussed the future demands on UK land. Factors such as demographic shifts and climate change will put increasing pressure on land use in the future. Foresight's project "Land Use Futures" covers issues from flooding to tranpsort, and explores a vision for land use for the next 50 years. Parliamentarians discussed the key findings of the report with the Head of Foresight, Professor Sandy Thomas and the project team.

Insect Pollination: Causes and consequences of decline
Parliamentary seminar, January 2010

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, enabling plant reproduction. Pollination by insects is therefore vital for the maintenance of biodiversity and agricultural production. 80% of British wildflowers and 84% of EU crops depend on insect pollinators, mainly bees. Loss of pollinators would cost UK agriculture an estimated £400m per annum, representing 12% of agricultural revenue. Evidence is mounting that British bee species, such as honeybees and bumblebees, are in decline, which could threaten future agricultural productivity and cause further biodiversity loss. What is causing this decline, and is further action needed to restore our pollinators? This joint POST -British Ecological Society seminar followed POST's January 2010 briefing note on Insect Pollination (POSTnote 348). We heard from expert speakers on the scientific and practical aspects of maintaining a healthy pollinator population and discussed such topics as:

  • Does pollinator decline pose a significant threat to the UK?
  • What research do we need to understand pollinator decline and mitigate its effects?
  • What can we do to improve the health of managed honeybees?

Science, Technology and Innovation for Poverty Reduction
Parliamentary seminar, December 2009

In December, POST collaborated with the Institute of Physics and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council EPSRC to host an event on the crucial role that science, technology and innovation play in alleviating poverty. The seminar showcased promising new areas of UK research in developmental sciences, covering a range of areas including mobile communications, disease control, and provision of clean water and electricity. It addressed the challenges faced in ensuring that research is focused on the needs of the world's poorest people and explored social and cultural factors affecting the uptake of new technologies in developing countries. Attendees had the opportunity to look at practical demonstrations and network with researchers. The presentations were given by:

Factors Affecting Political and Public Engagement in Energy and Climate Change (PDF PDF 67 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, December 2009

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and the Westminster Energy Forum hosted an event to give parliamentarians the opportunity to discuss a number of public engagement and political leadership issues in climate change. Speakers at this event included:

  • Fiona Sansom, Head of Campaigns, Department of Energy and Climate Change;
  • Kate Smith, Head of Government Affairs, Shell International;
  • Carola Hoyos, Senior Energy Correspondent, Financial Times.

Science, Parliaments and Africa (PDF PDF 281 KB) 
Parliamentary reception, November 2009

This seminar brought together Members and staff from the UK and other European parliaments, civil servants, researchers, development practitioners and funders to focus on science in African parliaments. They discussed why parliamentarians need access to research information and explored some of the challenges in bridging the gap between researchers and parliamentarians. The capacity building activities which POST, the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) and other partners have been carrying out were highlighted. Speakers at this event were:

  • Professor Moses Bockarie, Director of the Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine;
  • David Dickson, Director,;
  • Dr Chandrika Nath, Adviser, POST;
  • Dr Julius T. Mugwagwa, Visiting Scholar, Open University.

Beyond 2010: Halting UK Biodiversity Loss (PDF PDF 230 KB) 
Parliamentary reception, October 2009

The 2010 Biodiversity Target is an agreement through the Convention on Biological Diversity to significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth. The Target is now also incorporated into the Millennium Development Goals. The UK has committed itself to a stricter target: to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, British Ecological Society (BES) and the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) held an event to discuss progress made in meeting the 2010 biodiversity target in the UK; why biodiversity is important; possible successors to the 2010 target; and, the UK Government's policy and action with respect to addressing biodiversity loss. Whilst the 2010 target to halt biodiversity loss in the UK and in Europe has been successful in mobilising action, it is widely acknowledged that it will not be met. The evening was chaired by Lord Selborne FRS, with speeches from: Sarah Robinson, IUCN-UK National Committee, speaking on behalf of Sebastian Winkler, Head of Countdown 2010; Pavan Sukhdev, leader of the 'TEEB' (the economics of ecosystem services and biodiversity) study, and Professor Robert Watson, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

An audience of over 120 academics, representatives of NGOs, Government departments and agencies, delegates from business and politics attended the event, which saw the launch of a position statement by the British Ecological Society and the Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, setting out the role of science and professionalism in 'Conserving and Managing Biodiversity Beyond 2010'. One recurring theme, from both speeches and the question and answer session which followed, was the importance of generating widespread recognition of the true value of biodiversity and ecosystem services amongst the wider public and departure from a 'business-as-usual' approach.

The Draft Water and Flooding Bill: Risk Management of Flooding and Coastal Erosion (PDF PDF 585 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, July 2009

The draft Flood and Water Management Bill was published for consultation and prelegislative scrutiny on 21 April 2009. The draft Bill set out the Government's proposals to improve flood risk management and ensure water supplies are more secure. The broad objective of the bill is the sustainable management of water in the face of climate change. It includes legislative measures on the institutional framework to implement Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) and on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDs). In particular, it follows up on the recommendations of the Pitt report, Learning the Lessons from the 2007 Summer Floods and will achieve the strategic objectives set out in the government's water strategy, Future Water. It is also key to the implementation of the EU Directive 2007/60/EC on the assessment and management of flood risks. This joint NERC-CEH-POST seminar had expert speakers with experience in the scientific, policy and operational aspects of FCERM discussing topics such as:

  • Key scientific issues for flood risk management;
  • Social and economic aspects of flooding
  • Surface water management and key drainage issues;
  • Adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Small World: the Environmental Nanoscience Initiative
Parliamentary seminar, June 2009

The Natural Environment Research Council and POST hosted a morning reception showcasing the outcomes from NERC's Environmental Nanoscience Initiative and launching the second phase.

Regenerative Medicine (PDF PDF 312 KB) 
Parliamentary reception, 19 May 2009

From blood transfusions to bone marrow transplants, regenerative medicine has already benefited countless people. Recent scientific advances across a range of disciplines, from stem cells to biomedical engineering, are opening the door to even more clinical applications. This exhibition featured research aimed at restoring vision and hair loss as well as treatments for conditions such as stroke, diabetes and cardiac damage. It highlighted the latest clinical applications and gave Parliamentarians the opportunity to meet scientists at the cutting edge of UK research.

Food Hygiene Standards (PDF PDF 419 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, April 2009

Lord Rea chaired a seminar on food hygiene inviting Professor Hugh Pennington to outline the outcome of his inquiry into the 2005 E. coli O157 outbreak in South Wales. The outbreak was the second largest in the UK, affecting around 150 people and resulting in the death of one schoolboy. The seminar focused on the lessons learned from that outbreak and considered the food indsutry's response.

Wild Deer in the UK: Impacts of rising deer populations. (PDF PDF 483 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, February 2009

Wild deer are a valuable natural resource in the UK; they contribute to rural economies and culture, are a source of a healthy meat, and are a popular component of UK biodiversity. However, deer populations may have increased notably in recent decades, which could be associated with a range of negative economic, social and ecological impacts. Deer can threaten biodiversity in protected habitats; they can cause significant economic losses to agriculture and forestry; pose a risk on the roads; and are spreading into urban areas. This joint POST-British Ecological Society seminar discussed the available evidence base for a rise in deer numbers and impacts as well as the appropriate means of managing deer populations in England and Wales.

Renewable Energy in a Changing Climate (PDF PDF 202 KB) 
Parliamentary Seminar, January 2009

This seminar, which brought together POST and PRASEG members, explored the potential effects of climate change on the generation of renewable energy, and the potential changes in energy demand that may be experienced. Talks were given by Professor Jim Skea, one of eight members of the Climate Change Committee, and POST fellow Eleanor O'Rourke, who published a recent POSTnote (PDF PDF 118 KB)  on this issue.

Healthcare and transport in Tomorrow's Wireless World (PDF PDF 88 KB) 
Parliamentary Seminar, December 2008

Wireless communications are essential to transport, health, defence, education, entertainment, culture and commerce. New technology in cars which could help to avoid collisions, wireless devices to remind patients to take medication and wireless food scanners which allow shoppers to check food wrappers for potentially harmful content are all in the pipeline and could be a daily reality in a few years. POST, in conjunction with Ofcom, the UK's independent communications regulator, hosted a seminar looking at some of the exciting ways in which advances in technology are being used in health and transport, and the role for regulation in a cutting edge communications sector.

Mental Capital and Well-Being Seminar (PDF PDF 317 KB) 
Parliamentary Seminar, October 2008

POST hosted a seminar on Mental Capital and Well-Being with Foresight, part of the Government Office for Science. Participants discussed the latest international research and how this can be used in policy-making to improve mental capital and wellbeing across the population and throughout life.

Wildlife diseases (PDF PDF 87 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, June 2008

Wildlife diseases include diseases such as avian influenza, bovine tuberculosis, anthrax and rabies. They can have negative consequences for biodiversity, human and livestock health, animal welfare and the economy. At present UK wildlife disease surveillance is poorly co-ordinated and there is a consensus on the need for a unified strategy. This seminar heard from speakers with experience in the scientific and practical aspects of wildlife disease. The presentations looked at the impacts of wildlife diseases, the current status of surveillance in the UK and the options to strengthen policies, including the upcoming Wildlife Health Strategy.

Invasive non-native species: an ecological and economic threat (PDF PDF 468 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, May 2008

Invasive non-native species threaten the biodiversity of the UK by predating and out-competing native species, by spreading disease and by altering native habitats. They also have negative economic impacts, causing flooding, affecting land developments, inhibiting water body access, affecting tourism and causing human health problems. The number of invasive non-native species and their spread is increasing. This joint POST-British Ecological Society seminar considered what the UK could do to avoid further damage form the species already present and how to prevent more species from entering the UK.

Adult autism and policy

Parliamentary seminar, April 2008

An estimated 1% of the UK population have a condition that falls on the autistic spectrum. The abilities, disabilities and needs of people on this spectrum vary widely. Furthermore, those needs will change as an autistic person makes the transition from school to adulthood. This seminar looked at the needs of autistic adults and asked what policy makers can do to better address those needs. The slides presented by Patricia Howlin (Institute of Psychiatry) are available for download here. Intelligent robots in science and society Parliamentary reception, April 2008 The science-fiction vision of robots smarter than humans that demand their own rights is still just a dream.

But, worldwide, robots are playing an increasing role in human lives: in caring for the sick and elderly; in biological modelling; in space exploration; in leisure and entertainment; and increasingly in the military and law enforcement. This reception gave parliamentarians the opportunity to meet the scientists and the robots at the cutting edge of UK research and highlighted the ethical questions raised by intelligent robots in science and society. Energy and Environmental Issues in the US 2008 Presidential Elections: Positions and Controversies Parliamentary seminar, February 2008 POST welcomed Dr Larry Parker, Energy Analyst of the US Congressional Research Service to the Houses of Parliament to discuss environmental and energy issues of prominence in the presidential race. Dr Parker gave an insightful, unbiased analysis of how issues including climate change, nuclear power, alternative fuels and fuel efficiency measures are featuring in campaigning. The seminar gave rise to some lively debate.

Truly Transformative Government Parliament

Gov 2.0, or Truly Transformative Government Parliamentary seminar, January 2007 POST and the Oxford Internet Institute held a seminar on "Gov 2.0, or Truly Transformative Government" in Portcullis House. Leading figures from academia, industry and government discussed the challenges of large government IT projects before moving on to discuss how the public sector could improve on its use of the internet to engage the general public. The seminar featured an impressive line up of speakers including Professor Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University, and Tom Steinberg, founder and director of as well as a contribution from John Suffolk, Government Chief Information Officer, in the first panel discussion.

The seminar proved very popular and gave rise to some stimulating debate, helped along by the excellent chairing skills of Alun Michael MP and Lord Merlyn Errol. Further details and copies of the presentations will soon be available on the OII's website at Climate science: communicating the uncertainties Parliamentary seminar, November 2007 POST, in conjunction with the Natural Environment Research Council, held a seminar on Climate Change Uncertainty. Leading scientists Professor Sir Robert Watson and Professor Alan Thorpe spoke about some of the uncertainties in climate science, and what scientists are doing to reduce them. Mr Rowan Douglass from Willis Analytics gave participants an overview of how the re-insurance industry is planning for climate change. A discussion session, facilitated by Fiona Fox from the Science Media Centre, was held after the speeches. The seminar concluded with an opportunity for climate scientists to explain their work to Members and guests.

Changing health behaviour (PDF PDF 253 KB) 
Monday 15 October 2007, Attlee Suite, Portcullis House, 5 - 6pm

POST, in conjunction with the British Psychological Society, held a seminar on changing health behaviour, the subject of a recent POSTnote. (PDF PDF 121 KB)  Attendees heard from leading figures in the areas of health psychology and public health who outlined the characteristics of successful health behaviour interventions. A lively debate, chaired by Lord Rea, discussed the challenges facing UK policy in this area.

Talking on the same wavelength? (PDF PDF 375 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, July 2007

POST recently held a seminar to coincide with the publication of POSTnote 292-Radio spectrum management. (PDF PDF 186 KB)  Radio spectrum supports a range of businesses and infrastructure, from air traffic control to satellite television. Demand has increased with the rise in wireless internet and mobile services. The seminar examined recent changes, as the UK has moved to more liberalised spectrum use. Leading industry figures spoke on new technology developments in transport and health which make use of the radio frequencies. The seminar was chaired by POST Board Member Professor Jim Norton and key messages included the importance of European and international co-operation in managing this resource and the need for political leadership in spectrum issues.

Reducing domestic carbon emissions (PDF PDF 163 KB) 
A POST Constituency seminar, February 2007

POST held the first in a series of open public meetings on scientific issues across the UK. The meetings will be hosted in the constituencies of some of the MPs who oversee POST's work. The aim is to give members of the public a chance to participate in lively discussions of topical scientific and technological issues with MPs and experts. The first meeting was held on Friday 2 February in Anne Snelgrove MP's Swindon constituency where we discussed how UK household carbon emissions can be regulated. Details of further meetings in the series will be posted on our website later in the autumn. For further information please refer to the link above. 

UK Forests: a sustainable resource for the future? (PDF PDF 214 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, January 2007

Forests and trees make up an important part of our countryside and heritage. Covering 14% of the land area and with significant areas of national ownership, they have considerable potential to provide public benefits including conserving wildlife, providing recreation and contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation. POST's January 2007 briefing 275-UK trees and forests (PDF PDF 122 KB) examined current UK forestry policy and the potential of forestry to meet sustainable development goals in the future.

Chaired by Lord Clark of Windermere, the Chairman of the Forestry Commission, the speakers were Keith Kirby (Natural England), Robert Matthews (Forest Research) and Hilary Allison (The Woodland Trust).

Communications Convergence: What's on your Mobile Tonight? (PDF PDF 178 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, November 2006

Whether we are taking pictures on a mobile phone or watching a film on our home computer, the impact of convergence - the increasing overlap between the functions of digital devices - is all around us. What does this mean for regulation? And what impact will it have on the communications sector? And consumers themselves?

POST, in conjunction with Ofcom held a seminar on convergence in the telecommunication and broadcast media industries. Experts from the world of regulation, politics and industry described the new technologies and their implications. There was also an opportunity to try out some of the latest gadgets.

Assisted Reproduction (PDF PDF 130 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, November 2006

What is the likely demand for fertility services over the next 10 years and how might this be paid for? What are the long term health implications of assisted reproductive technologies and how are they regulated?

This seminar, jointly hosted by POST and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infertility discussed these issues and provided the terms of reference for a POST long report on Assisted Reproduction to be published in 2007.

Sustainability: Making Britain Green (PDF PDF 258 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, July 2006

This seminar, jointly hosted by POST, the British Psychological Society and the British Ecological Society discussed how the general population can be engaged in active citizen participation as 'individual green agents'.

Surf's Up - Emerging Uses for Broadband Internet (PDF PDF 139 KB) 
Parliamentary seminar, June 2006

In the fourth of the series of joint seminars co-hosted by POST and Ofcom, Parliamentarians and other interested parties considered emerging uses for broadband technology in the telecommunications sector. Internet telephony (Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP), television over internet (TVIP) and the application of broadband technology in public service delivery, all highlight uses of broadband internet which do not necessarily require a PC.

Chaired by Ian Taylor MP, the speakers were:

  • Peter Philips, Partner, Strategy and Market Developments, Ofcom

  • Lib Charlesworth, Director of Sales and Marketing, BT TV Services

  • Richard Griffiths, Director of Technology, Strategy & Development, BT Vision

  • Eli Katz Chair, Internet Telephony Service Providers' Association, (ITSPA)

  • James Morris, CEO, Digital Bridge

The presentations were followed by an open debate and a hands-on demonstration of the technology. For more details see the PDF link.

Healthy Life Expectancy
Parliamentary seminar, April 2006

Following on from the House of Lords S&T Committee report on the Scientific Aspects of Ageing, and POST's February 2006 briefing on Health Life Expectancy ( POSTnote 257 (PDF PDF 110 KB) ), this seminar was jointly organised by the Committee and POST with support from the Institute of Actuaries and the Royal Statistical Society.

Professor David Melzer (Peninsula Medical School, University of Exeter) provided an overview of research into trends over time and inequalities in disability in the UK. He explored some of the challenges in measuring and improving disability free life expectancy, and examined the public health importance of the issues presented.

Professor Les Mayhew, from the Institute of Actuaries, (Cass Business School, City University London) placed the UK's life and healthy life expectancy in an international context, before exploring the public expenditure consequences of a widening gap between life expectancy and HLE. He considered the potential positive future impacts of policies to improve HLE.

Discussion following these talks considered issues such as:

  • How best to measure trends in disability and ill health in the UK.

  • The international perspective - how do UK life expectancy and healthy life expectancy compare with other countries?

  • What are the public health/expenditure consequences of projected UK trends?

Nuclear Power in the US
Parliamentary seminar, February 2006

Dr Larry Parker, the Congressional Research Service of the US Congress’ leading expert on energy and environmental policy, give an impartial assessment of the current state of the US nuclear power industry. He discussed the likelihood of new nuclear build in the light of government policy and incentives, growing concerns about global warming, and the deregulation of the electric utility industry. The global revival of interest in nuclear electricity generation is feeding into the UK’s own energy policy review.

CAP Reform: can agri-environment schemes deliver public benefits?
Parliamentary Seminar, February 2006

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy has moved payments away from production and towards the provision of public benefits such as maintaining an attractive landscape or conserving wildlife.  POST’s December 2005 briefing on Farmland Wildlife ( POSTnote 254 (PDF PDF 128 KB) ) examined the current status of wildlife on farms and the options available to farmers for conserving it.

This joint POST- British Ecological Society seminar led on from the POSTnote to address questions such as:

  • How effective are existing agri-environment schemes and what influences their success?

  • How good is the monitoring and evaluation of agri-environment schemes?

  • How can a farm protect the environment and remain profitable?

Chaired by the Earl of Selborne, the speakers were:

  • Professor William Sutherland, University of East Anglia

  • Chris Reid, agri-environment specialist at English Nature

  • John Hall, director of the Essex Wildlife Trust

Take Away TV - Television Goes Mobile (PDF PDF 149 KB) 
Parliamentary Seminar, January 2006

In the third of the series of POST Seminars in conjunction with Ofcom, members of both Houses and other interested parties considered the emerging mobile television market. As well as hearing about current industry trials, there was an opportunity to try out the new handsets and get a feel for the technology. For more details see the PDF link.