Scientist gets rare insight into workings of central government

  • Date

    Fri 22 Apr 22

Two males stood side by side smiling

Machine learning expert Dr Shoaib Jameel recently took part in this year’s Royal Society Pairing Scheme which gives research scientists and policymakers an opportunity to experience each other’s worlds.

Here Dr Jameel, from our School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, talks about his experience as being one the of 30 scientists selected for the Royal Society Pairing Scheme.

Why did you want to take part in the Pairing Scheme?

My long-term research goal is to develop using computational methods to automatically create personalised children’s story books for free – ie books written in a child’s native language, at the appropriate reading level and with images relevant to where they live in the world. If we could achieve this goal, we would address UNESCO’s long-term vision of “localisation in education” and address the key problem where some children are not reading at their age level.

I thought my research would be of interest to central government as poor reading levels are an issue amongst children in some areas of the UK.

I am also keen to challenge the views around artificial intelligence (AI) and show it is there to help us, not to take away jobs of the content creators.

Who did you pair with and why?

I was paired with civil servant Luke Reynolds, who is Deputy Director, Futures and Foresight at the Home Office. He found my research plan and long-term vision very intriguing. As a result, he got interested in how my research could help his work in the long-term, such as could the Home Office use the concept of automatically creating content in developing personalised pamphlets to control drug abuse.

What were your main highlights during the pairing week?

I attended the Security and Policing Event 2022 where I got a chance to discuss my research with other companies working in closely related areas. The most interesting part was understanding how the select committees work. Other highlights included getting a better understanding of how government research funding works and how these research funding calls are initiated and why they are initiated and listened to talks by key members in the Government.

How do you think this scheme helped Government understand the work of scientists/academics?

I got a chance to discuss my research with MP Chi Onwurah, including raising some of the concerns academics face, such as not many research funding calls for early-career researchers. As a computer scientist I also discussed what we could do to adopt AI in education and how to build people’s trust in AI.

Would you recommend this to other Essex academics?

Before this event, I had only read about Westminster in books. Getting the opportunity to go inside Westminster was like a dream. If you are keen on applying for funding and understanding how the entire ecosystem of funding calls work, attending this event is paramount. However, it is not easy to get selected as scientists from across the UK compete for the limited places.

A key point to consider when applying is how to align your research with the government’s priorities. Government employees must also find your research relevant to their work, so they want to be paired with you.

I would highly recommend this event to Essex academics as I have not only matured as a researcher but also have now got connections in the government.


  • Dr Jameel is pictured above left with fellow research scientist on the Royal Society Pairing Scheme Dr Chirnjeev Singh Nagi, from the University of Surrey.