‘top 10’ list of tips for any academic looking to engage with select committees:

Oral evidence

  • 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.
  1. Get further training. Seek out training from the Parliamentary Outreach service on how academic research can support parliamentary activities.

Written evidence

  • 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.

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