When an email dropped into my inbox advertising the opportunity to undertake an RCUK policy internship, I was initially apprehensive about applying.
I wasn’t sure what policy work would entail, I knew little about the RSB, I wasn’t sure if I’d like to live in London and I was unsure if I’d be able to take three months away from my PhD. What would my supervisor think?
I sat on the email for a while and kept it in my inbox for a few weeks whilst I researched and investigated what these internships could all be about.
I was half way through a 4-year MRC funded PhD at the University of Manchester and it was starting to get tough. My data wasn’t going the way I had hoped and the up and down rollercoaster of undertaking a PhD was heading on a downwards trajectory.
I stepped into my supervisor’s office armed with all the facts and fully prepared for him to be unsure about me taking three months off, not working in the lab.
He was very supportive and said I should jump on any opportunity to do something different and get new experiences. The prospect of my developing keen writing and communication skills – into the bargain – really peaked his interest.
When I arrived at the RSB everyone was so welcoming, friendly and excited to hear all about my PhD. Everyone had come from such a diverse range of science backgrounds, with lots of different interests, so I was quickly refreshing my basic biology knowledge.
In the first few weeks I had lots of reading to do to brush up on what science policy is and all the current issues that RSB were working on. I also immersed myself in all the events London had to offer from free talks and debates to visiting the theatre; I wasn’t going to waste this opportunity!
I was involved with so many different projects over the 3 months I was at RSB from helping to organise events, attending meetings, writing blog posts, analysing feedback data, to collating articles for newsletters and writing reports.
One of the projects I worked on was helping put together responses for the Government’s 25-Year environment plan.
The plan was released in January 2018 and outlines the broad vision for environmental policy over the next quarter of a century. It has many big, bold ideas that the government wishes to implement. An ongoing Parliamentary inquiry is looking at the scope and direction of the plan. I was asked to work with the science policy team to produce a written response to the inquiry on behalf of the RSB with a short 3-week turnaround time.
I initially had a couple of days to read and fully digest the plan, producing a report with comment on several questions asked in the inquiry. This was then sent to individual and organisational members of the RSB to get input from the community. I really enjoyed the short turnaround deadlines on this project. This is not something you get in academia and I am proud to have helped contribute to the RSB’s response.
I also worked on collating, summarising and selecting questions for Voice of the Future 2018, an event which aims to support young researchers’ understanding of Parliament and politics – and put their key issues to MPs. It was amazing to have helped organise an event in Parliament and see all our hard work pay off when the sessions went smoothly.
I got to ask one of the questions to representatives of the science and technology select committee of the House of Commons and as it was shown on BBC Parliament: I have a great snap shot of me on TV and all my family could see what I had been doing!
Overall, I had a fantastic time at the RSB and I was so sad to leave! I have developed so many skills that will not only be useful during my PhD but also when I finish.
It has opened my eyes to all the jobs that are being done to make science happen and be as effective as possible. I am thoroughly inspired.
Inspired to join us as a policy intern in 2019? Applications are now open.