News Editor Mei Futonaka sat down with Buchanan Institute committee member Priyanka Radhakrishnan to discuss the society’s plans, events and activities for the year.
When and why was the Buchanan Institute created?
Four years ago, three Edinburgh students realised that the only way young people could engage with social issues was through debates or protests. While these are incredibly valuable methods of political engagement, they wanted to create an avenue where students could propose their own solutions to these important problems. So the Buchanan Institute was born, an organisation which provides young people with the academic resources needed to draft detailed policy papers, and the political connections required to turn these ideas into action.
Who is the Institute catered for, and what kind of students are recruited?
The Buchanan Institute caters to students of all ages and disciplines. We conduct a variety of projects covering issues ranging from food waste to Big Data and are always open to starting new initiatives.
We believe that diversity is our most valuable resource so we make it a point to recruit students from a variety of different backgrounds.
Please give us an idea of the workings of the society, along with how often you meet.
The Institute hosts Weekly Workspaces that run from 5 to 6 pm every Wednesday. However, most research teams also meet outside these times so students who cannot make these meetings are still welcome. We also put on a variety of socials including post-workspace drinks, flat parties and comedy events.
It’s refreshers season: why would you suggest a student, old or new, join the Buchanan Institute this semester?
I think we can all agree that one of the biggest problems plaguing our politics today is partisanship. People on both sides of the aisle are basing their opinions and solutions on political beliefs instead of actual research. The Buchanan Institute tackles this issue, by helping students from different political backgrounds working together to create well-researched policy proposals.
By joining one of the many groundbreaking projects we are running this year students can develop comprehensive solutions that actually address important problems instead of just feeding into a party byline.
What goals did the society set at the beginning of the year and how far do you think the society has come in achieving these goals?
We wanted to make the Buchanan Institute a more interdisciplinary institution. We realised that people often equated policy with politics which caused the social implications of STEM issues to be ignored. Therefore this year, the Buchanan Institute made a commitment to start focusing on STEM fields and we are on our way to achieving this goal.
Through hosting events such as our Edinburgh Sustainable Innovation Conference and launching projects focused on AI and Big Data, the Buchanan Institute has begun to facilitate political changes in STEM issues and we are looking for excited researchers to help us further this goal.
Image: The Buchanan Institute