Political engagement and policy is generating more debate than perhaps ever before. The University of Lincoln is attempting to enhance understanding of the relationship between the British public and the processes which shape political decision-making. Dr Catherine Bochel from the School of Social and Political Sciences is one of only five researchers in the UK selected for the House of Commons Academic Fellowship Scheme, which grants her rare access to Parliament. As a Fellow, Dr Bochel has unique access to the Parliamentary estate and House services and she is working with the House to build public understanding of Parliament, and inform, evaluate and enhance the House’s work and that of its Members. Dr Bochel makes regular visits to Westminster and is working alongside Parliamentary staff and politicians to explore how effectively Parliament engages with the public in its decision-making processes.
Doctor Bochel's research examines whether the concept of 'procedural justice' – ensuring that ‘a fair process’ has been followed – can be used as a framework to examine mechanisms for public engagement with Parliament. She began her research by scoping the nature and extent of public engagement with Parliament. The second phase will develop a framework to measure the degree of voice and participation. This will involve interviews with MPs, peers, clerks and other parliamentary officials.
Dr Catherine Bochel
Parliament is keen to encourage the public to get involved in politics, and people can now do this in a variety of ways. However, it is important that when they come into contact with Parliament their experience of the process is as positive as possible. In a liberal democratic system people may not get everything they ask for, so their treatment by the system and experience of it is very important; final decisions are made by elected representatives, so the public must be able to see that the decision-making process is fair and transparent.
Dr Bochel’s study emerged from her previous research on e-petitions, which has helped to shape the government and Parliament e-petitions system, including the introduction of a Petitions Committee and a range of new measures not dependent on signature thresholds.
The issue of political participation is a hot research topic for academics in the University of Lincoln’s School of Social and Political Sciences. Other experts at Lincoln explore youth participation, and have written books on the issue, as well as the devolution of powers to local authority levels, and how the UK’s security forces are scrutinised.
Meet the Expert
Dr Catherine Bochel,
School of Social and Political Sciences
Dr Catherine Bochel is a Reader in Policy Studies at the University of Lincoln. Her extensive research work specialises in the social policy process, petitions systems in the UK, and participation.