The 13th Workshop of Parliamentary Scholars and Parliamentarians took place between the 29th and the 30th of July 2017 at the Wroxton College in Wroxton, Oxfordshire, UK. The 1st Workshop was held at the Berlin Science Centre in 1994. Its success led to it being a biennial event. A one-of-its-kind gathering of all relevant stakeholders around representative institutions. It is no coincidence that the workshop is sponsored, among others, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which closely monitors all contributions and presentations.
This year, I was particularly happy to have shared this extraordinary experience with distinguished MPs, scholars and colleagues from all continents. I had the chance to present an on-going study on “Strengthening the Capacity of Parliaments through Development of Parliamentary Research Services”, which is jointly conducted with Alexandros Koutsogiannis. My presentation on the 30th of July 2017 drew considerable attention as well as questions on expert support to the oversight function and budgeting of research services. A working version of the study may be found here. Below you may find its abstract.
“Parliamentary Research Services (PaRS) are indispensable components of democratic Parliaments. Their contribution lies not only in the provision of services related to data and knowledge, but also in the elevation of parliaments into first order national institutions, thus keeping up with their primary constitutional function as the legislative power in modern democracies. Within this framework, PaRS aim to be timely, objective, non-partisan and authoritative, thereby contributing to an informed national legislature, while counter-balancing governmental information superiority. For example, in contemporary digital times, PaRS need to find ways to comply with the processing of an ever increasing amount of information and data, in order to perform their institutional role. At the same time, PaRS will have to develop their capacity, in order to play a critical role in the planning and implementation of the parliament of the future, the digital Parliament.
This paper will concentrate on a comparative examination between the research services of the parliaments of Greece, Austria and Serbia, which because of their size and organization offer a common basis for concluding analyses. The set of guidelines for PaRS which was developed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union will serve as a point of reference for this comparison. The basic aspects of the successful operation of the above PaRS as well as their fundamental differences will be revealed. In the above framework, the central question of the ever diverging capacities for the collection and processing of information and data between parliaments and the executive will be addressed. The answer to this question goes well above the simple identification of the different structural factors among the above mentioned PaRS and demonstrates the central argument of the paper: PaRS are not disinterested subcomponents of the institutional function of parliaments, but active contributors to the independence of the digital Parliament.”