As you may well have seen, last month I started a 3 month NERC policy placement at the Government Office of Science, or GO Science as it’s slightly strangely known as. You can read about the scheme, why I chose to do it and how to get involved here and get some hints on the application form here.
Now I’m approaching the halfway point of my placement (where has that gone??), I thought it would be a good time to talk about my initial impressions and what it’s like to work at GO Science.
GO Science is relatively small- although we’re in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills which is huge, the office is small enough that you get to know the majority of people quite quickly. They also seem to rely quite a lot on interns- not just policy placements but general internships meaning that there is a good range of ages and skill sets and they are well set up for having an intern- I’m not just left doing dull jobs or simply twiddling my thumbs trying to hunt out work as I have been in other places. Things were a bit slow to start with as I’m in quite a small team but I’ve now got properly stuck into a project it’s much better.
One thing that surprised me about GO Science is the number of people with Dr. in front of their name. The civil service as a whole seems keen to promote generalists and there are plenty here who have a non scientific background but it’s somewhat reassuring that a large number of people dealing with science policy do actually have a scientific background, to the extent that it’s not uncommon for people to have done a post doc or two before they come here. The mix of this and generalists with experiences as diverse as having worked in Afghanistan and India I think works really well.
This does mean though that if you have a scientific specialism then be prepared to be asked all about it. Sir Mark Walport, the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor has recently been in Svalbard and this has led to me being asked a whole range of questions from whether or not he has to have an armed guard when in the Arctic to the state of the sea ice. The fact I do Antarctica doesn’t matter!
It’s been really easy to get to know people and that has been helped by the fact that in my second week there was a quiz and a bake off, two of the best things. There is never a shortage of interesting conversations around the office, people here are genuinely interested in science.
In term of the work itself I’ve been organising a high profile event, written a briefing note for Sir Mark and presented my own science to the department. I have to admit the area I’m working in isn’t exactly what I’m interested in but regardless of the opportunity to learn new things there are still plenty of chances to see what else is going on in the department and even maybe visit other government departments to work shadow. So plenty to look forward to until returning to the PhD…