Mr David Rutley MP
House of Commons
The “Geek Manifesto” and the importance of science in politics
Please find enclosed a copy of a new book by Mark Henderson, titled “The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters”. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
According to the Financial Times:
The book laments the undervalued role of science in politics on pressing issues such as the global economy, healthcare, education, justice and the environment. For many politicians, science is a tool to be exploited when it supports an existing policy position, and an inconvenience to be discarded when it does not. As Henderson puts it, the cynical quest for policy-based evidence has trumped the desperate need for evidence-based policy. This is not surprising since only 1 in 650 British MPs has a Science qualification and his name is Julian Huppert. Your conservative colleague Adam Afriyie is proposing compulsory science literacy lessons for MPs in order to tackle this serious problem, but there is still a long way to go before science becomes integral to political decision making.
As well as the serious issues the book raises, it is also very positive and inspiring. The state of affairs it describes can not be blamed politicians alone. It is also the fault of people who value science and evidence based decision making – the “geeks”. We geeks must engage in the political process, not stand on the sidelines and moan – this is the geek manifesto.
This thinking led me to join a campaign for people to buy a copy of this book and send it to every MP in the UK set up by Dave Watts. The book you now have is a direct result of this campaign, which you and 649 other members of parliament now have a copy of. Despite the recession and challenging economic circumstances, over 300 ordinary voters like me have spent their own time and money in order to send you these books.
Please take the time to read your copy of the book. If politicians can learn from geeks, and geeks can learn from politicians, we will all get wiser and decision making can only improve. I would be especially interested to hear if and how this book has changed your decision making and will post any of your replies here on my blog.
Dr. Duncan Hull
School of Computer Science
University of Manchester
P.S. A copy of this letter has been sent by post accompanied by a hardback copy of the Geek Manifesto. Another copy of this letter has been emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the content of this post has been adapted from letters authored by Dave Watts and Chris Chambers.
Update, David Rutley sent a written reply (below) dated the 22nd June 2012, which didn’t reach me until the middle of July:
Dear Dr. Hull
Re: The Geek Manifesto
Thank you for your email of 18th June and letter enclosing a copy of the Geek Manifesto.
It was very thoughtful of you to think of me and I appreciate you sending me a copy of the book.
Like you, I believe it is important that science subjects are well represented in the House of Commons and society as a whole. It is important that young people are encouraged to study STEM subjects, so that the UK can compete on the international stage and our universities can continue to be world leaders in scientific research.
I will be sure to bear the views put forward in the Geek Manifesto in mind during my work in the House of Commons and in my conversations with Ministers.
Thank you once again for taking the time to send me a copy of the Geek Manifesto. I look forward to reading my copy.
With best wishes,
David Rutley MP