Can I get a witness? Getting beyond the 'usual suspects' in Parliamentary Select Committee evidence

The project was commissioned in 2017 as part of a competitive academic fellowship scheme organised by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Impact Accelerator Account. 

Select Committees in the House of Commons are cross-party groups of MPs which mirror UK government departments and are charged with scrutinising the work of those departments. This research focuses on who Select Committees listen to when undertaking inquiries, focusing specifically on the International Development Committee to ask (i) who are their most prolific witnesses, providing written and oral evidence; and (ii) how can they get beyond this group to ensure they are exposed to a diverse range of voices and experiences when taking evidence? The project involves the PI spending 2 days per week with the Committee from April-December 2018. Our data comes from analysis of evidence submitted to the committee (1997-2017), interviews with Committee Chairs, Clerks and Specialists, and interviews with witnesses from organisations that appear regularly before the committee. The research also includes a survey of academics working in international development, aimed at raising awareness of the opportunity to engage with inquiries, isolating the barriers faced by researchers and identifying strategies to overcome them.

Key researchers

Danielle BeswickDr Danielle Beswick

Principal Investigator

International Development Department

Senior Lecturer

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Hjort-MattiasDr Marrias Hjort


Department of Political Science and International Studies

Teaching Fellow in Political Science

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Outputs and impact

The research findings will be presented to the international development committee at an away day in December 2018. Summaries of the findings and committee response will be sent to the academics and the witnesses who took part in interviews and surveys in early 2019. We have three academic papers planned from the research, including one to be presented at the Political Studies Association conference in April 2019. We also plan to produce an accessible guide for new witnesses giving evidence, using the data from our interviews with Committee staff who have experience of preparing witnesses.  

Partner organisations and sponsors

ESRC IAA (as noted in text above)

Parliamentary office of science and technology