September 20th, 2023- live from Brussels 01.00 pm – Islamabad, 4:00pm PST: Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS) was invited to present at a prestigious panel to elucidate the theme “Mapping and connecting parliamentary research services through the world”, at the International Virtual daylong Workshop organized by AGORA Parliamentary Development Community of Practice and INTER PARES, an EU global project on strengthening capacity of parliaments. The online workshop was attended by more than 173 participants from around the world, led by senior parliamentary research experts from recognized parliamentary institutions in UK, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Ghana and Pakistan in addition to academics and researchers. The workshop aimed at the importance of research evidence in the parliamentary research for better legislature. Research evidence is a vital resource for parliaments as they scrutinise, debate and approve policies and legislation.Although parliamentary libraries and research services are found around the world, their role in helping parliaments to access and use academic research is under-appreciated and poorly understood. There have been suggestions, for instance, that around 90% of legislatures lack effective science advice mechanisms. Those that are most often recognised and valued are found in northern European democracies (Tyler & Akerlof, 2019). This online workshop, hosted by the AGORA Parliamentary Development Community of Practice, aimed to show a different picture of this landscape. Parliamentary Academic Fellows with the UK’s Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology Dr Vicky Ward and Dr Mark Monaghan shared work they have done to map the services helping parliaments across the world to access and harness research evidence. Many of these are much more sophisticated than has previously been presumed, and a large number are to be found outside northern Europe.
Dr Ida Kelemen, coordinator of the Parliamentary Libraries, Research and Archives at ECPRD, and Head of Parliamentary Research Service at Hungarian National Assembly, presented the European landscape of parliamentary research services. As well as hearing about Vicky and Mark’s work, and ECPRD activities, the workshop provided an opportunity to share and learn more about the work of parliamentary research services and their role in building strong parliaments around the world from colleagues representing parliaments of Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Ghana, Pakistan. Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General (Research) PIPS, spoke to the workshop in the second session, titled, “Engaging with Academic Research: The View from Parliamentary Research Services”. He gave his remarks on the importance of academic research in parliamentary work where research has to come up to the standards of authenticity of evidence gathered, credibility of sources, reliability of methodology, all presented in precise balanced form within prescribed deadlines. Ms. Fakiha Mehmood Deputy Director (Research), Mr. Muhammad Rizwan Manzoor Assistant Director (Research), Mr. Qaiser Iqbal Librarian, and Ms. Ayesha Tariq Khan Assistant Director (Research) and Mr Fayaz Gul Asstt Librarian also participated in the online workshop and its multiple breakout sessions. Ms. Ayesha Tariq Khan took the minutes of the workshop for PIPS. The welcoming and introductory session was held by Dr. Jonathan Murphy, Head of Program, INTER-PARES, and Lydia Harriss, Senior Adviser and Physical Sciences Lead at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, House of Commons, UK. The online workshop had two main sessions. The topic of the first session was “Parliamentary Research Services: What, Who, Where and Why”. The first session had two sub sessions.
Dr. Vicky Ward, Parliamentary Academic Fellow, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK, and Dr. Mark Monaghan, Parliamentary Academic Fellow, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, UK spoke on the first sub session, titled, “The Global Mapping – Parliamentary Research Services across the World”. Dr. Ida Kelemen, Head of Parliamentary Research Service at Hungarian National Assembly spoke on the second sub session titled “Parliamentary Research Services across Europe”.
The topic of the second session was “Engaging with Academic Research: The View from Parliamentary Research Services”. Dr. Christoph Konrath, Head of the Department of Scientific Support and Coordination in Parliamentary Matters, Austrian Parliament and Dr. Christoph Clar, Expert, Parliamentary Administration, Austrian Parliament, Dr Heather Lank, Parliamentary Librarian of Canada and Ms. Lalita Acharya, Senior Director, Economics, Resources and Environment Division, Library of Parliament, Canada, Dr. Štěpán Pecháček, Director of the Parliamentary Institute, Chamber of Deputies, Parliament of the Czech Republic, Mr. Abraham Ibn Zackaria, Deputy Director of Research in the Parliament of Ghana, and Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafzool Zaka, Director General(Research) and Founder Member, Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services highlighted the importance of academic research in parliamentary research services, its challenges and way forward.
The panel presentations followed by absorbing interactive deliberations in the eight reakout sessions in the evening session on the imperative topics of: 1. Visibility, value and use of parliamentary research services, 2. Accessing and managing information; 3. Capacity, demand and resource constraints; 4. Balancing depth and timeliness; 5. Professional development and career progression; 6. Evaluating the impact of research services; 7. Working across policy areas and cultures; 8. Maintaining impartiality; and last but not the least, 9. Working with non-parliamentary agencies and academics. The final remarks were given at the end of the workshop and discussion was held among the participants on how to convert challenges to opportunities. The workshop brought together parliamentary research and development practitioners and scholars in a friendly, open and interactive online environment that enables sharing, learning and connecting with peers.