‘top 10’ list of tips for any academic looking to engage with select committees:
- Do your homework and brush up on committee dynamics. Watch videos of past sessions to get a sense of the format. Know why the inquiry came about and familiarise yourself with other submitted evidence.
- Consult with the clerk and other witnesses. Committee clerks are a font of knowledge and it is helpful to know what other witnesses will be saying.
- Prepare succinctly and present for a lay audience. Know your arguments and have the list of points you want to make. Eliminate jargon or overly academic language for non-expert policymakers.
- Expect the unexpected. Questions won’t be in the same format as in your preparation and MPs are free to deviate from the pre-arranged topic areas. Have an answer to the “you’re the expert, you should know” line of questioning.
- Don’t be too nervous. It can be intense but you aren’t on trial, they are looking for expert advice to inform their work.
- Get further training. Seek out training from the Parliamentary Outreach service on how academic research can support parliamentary activities.
- Respond directly to the questions asked. Ensure your responses are strictly within the scope of the inquiry. Extraneous information or ‘hobby-horse’-type arguments will make your evidence less useful.
- Keep it brief and make your recommendations clear. The usual limit is 3,000 words or fewer and make sure to include an executive summary.
- Stick to the facts. Only include your own original information, allow the committee to draw conclusions.
- Use consistent formatting. Ensure it conforms to the guidelines; don’t use images and make sure to number your paragraphs. This will make it easy for the committee staff to use and publish.
Here is a handy guide if the do’s and don’t’ of giving evidence to select committees.