Emma's blog

Parliamentary calls for evidence of interest to anthropologists

In November 2019 the Royal Anthropological Institute launched a new Committee on The Anthropology of Policy and Practice for both academic and policy/practitioner anthropologists, and those who consider themselves both, as well as social scientists interested in anthropology in the UK and overseas. We currently focus on five emergency themes: climate change, mobilities, impact of the coronavirus, ethics, and the state. 

We will periodically alert anthropologists to calls for evidence by the UK Parliament (and in time devolved parliaments) that relate to our themes or to social science in general. The UK parliament is keen to hear from a more diverse range of experts, especially women and those from the global south.

Parliament has provided information about how researchers can engage (e.g., asking experts on COVID-19 to sign up to a database, including non-medical researchers) and has published a guide for witnesses about giving evidence. The knowledge and exchange unit are offering training for academics about how to engage with parliament. Parliament has a new hub for all COVID-19 related work. You can find a short video explaining what committees do on youtube.

These are the current calls for evidence that relate to our committee’s themes and that may be of interest to anthropologsts. NB. Committees will often accept submissions late – if the date has passed but the inquiry is still open, then ask the committee staff whether they are still accepting evidence.

Key tips: keep the evidence short (no more than 3,000 words), put a summary at the beginning, explain who you are and why they should take your evidence seriously, use numbered paragraphs, including pithy quotable statements (so you are more likely to be quoted in their report), and make recommendations that the UK government can act on.




Select Committee



Link for details

COVID-19 related




International Trade

COVID-19 pandemic and international trade

24 April 2020



Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Impact of COVID on businesses and workers

30 April 2020



Women and Equalities

Unequal impact: COVID-19 impact on people with protected characteristics

30 April 2020



Housing, Communities and Local Government

Impact of COVID-19 on homelessness

1 May 2020



Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

COVID-19 and food supply

1 May 2020



International Development

Humanitarian crisis monitoring: impact of coronavirus

8 May 2020




Impact of COVID-19 on education and children’s services

31 May 2020



Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors

19 June 2020



Human Rights (both Houses)

COVID-19: human rights implications

22 July 2020



Science and Technology

Role of research in addressing COVID-19

31 July



Other topics




International Development

Effectiveness of UK Aid

30 April 2020


Foreign Affairs 

Environmental diplomacy (incl COP26)

4 May 2020



Foreign Affairs 

FCO Review

8 May 2020


Environmental Audit Committee

Technological Innovations and Climate Change

15 May 2020



Science and Technology

A new research agency for science, engineering and technology ideas

30 June 2020




Engaging with politicians on climate change

To my surprise I discovered this week that as a resident you can talk for 5 minutes to your council on any matter within their responsibility. I made the argument against airport expansion partly by analysing the views of those commenting on the application via the council's planning siteIf you find the objections persuasive, please add your own on the council site from anywhere in the UK (or maybe even beyond?).


A talk to North Somerset Full Council 24th September 2019

"I speak as a local resident but also as a social scientist at the University of London specialising in the evaluation of development projects. In social terms the project I want to comment on – Bristol Airport expansion – is a relatively easy case to judge. I wanted to share my assessment.

The 2019 poll commissioned by the airport claims that the ‘silent majority’ in South West support the plans. However, this is misleading. Their proposition was: ‘Bristol Airport has submitted plans to increase its capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers a year.’ And they go on to say they only plan to improve existing facilities not build more. 17% strongly supported, 54% tended to support. But supported what? This is spin. 10 million passengers sounds as if it is the current level – actually it was 8.6 million last year and their longer-term plan is to go even higher than 12m. The ‘expansion’ sounds as if it is all about improvements, downplaying the huge increase in flights with all its attendant problems. This was not an informative poll – I don’t blame them, it is company press officer’s job is to spin. But from a detached viewpoint, it is a bit like the airport saying it will be carbon neutral by 2025 and leaving the planes and cars out of the calculation. 

It is far more telling that an amenity that should be popular with people in the region had 3496 objectors and 1786 supporters only on your site by 24thSeptember. Plus, 1000s more have signed various petitions and attended meetings to express their objections in other ways since December 2018 - explained in detail on the Stop Bristol Airport Expansion website. And our MP Dr Liam Fox believes that the expansion is inappropriate unless there is major investment in infrastructure first.

Looking at supporters on your site: – bearing in mind that much support appeared just after the airport emailed passengers and suppliers to encourage them to express approval, we can assume they are mostly customers. It was pointed out by someone on your site that the airport gave the impression it was a survey rather than a response to a planning application. A large number of these supporters suggested improvements, as if they thought they were writing to the airport rather than the council. Most gave no reason for support; some mention jobs but with no details. Many caveated their support, writing that they would only support development if there is cheaper car parking and a massive investment made in transport links first– before the airport expands. 

Looking at the objections: – their answers are more varied and informative than supporters and can be summarised as follows: the airport is hoping to expand in the wrong place, at the wrong time and – bearing in mind the profits will go to Canada – for the wrong reasons. They mostly come from the South West area, including a huge number from Bristol, and mention various problems all connected to people’s well-being:

  • Noise pollution (especially at night)
  • Air pollution and other health impacts (including on children – note the Supreme Court’s ruling on 6thJune 2019 that councils can be held liable for failing to protect children)
  • Effect on local ecology
  • Illegal car parking and other harm to the greenbelt and to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Extra traffic, accidents and chronic congestion (especially on narrow roads) partly due to absence of rail and motorway links
  • Economic benefits mostly go to Canada and risky as government policy could change on airports 

and above all

  • Climate emergency

As you know, since April 2019 North Somerset residents’ increased knowledge about the climate crisis has led to many, including young people, expressing their dissent with passion. They cite a wide range of reports including one by the New Economic Foundation. One resident on the N Somerset site wrote: “Ask yourselves: which side of history do I want to be on?” 

In my research I study politicians in Westminster. So I realise that the representation of North Somerset must often involve an impossible weighing up of diverse and conflicting needs and interests of constituents, but in this case it seems to me that the evidence of harm without benefit is overwhelmingly against expansion."


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