I originally planned to start my UKRI Policy internship at the Government Office for Science (GO-Science) last March, but as with most aspects of our lives, this had to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the following months, GO-Science found itself at the centre of the Government’s response to COVID-19, and its head, the Government Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, became a household name. I was therefore very excited, if a little daunted, to be able to take up the internship in October (albeit remotely) once the initial wave had passed.
I was lucky enough to be involved in two projects at GO-Science, allowing me to see the breadth of work done by the department. The first was the “Rebuilding a Resilient Britain” programme, which brought together over 250 academics, policy makers, and representatives from funding bodies to consider the pressing social questions affecting Britain’s recovery from the pandemic in the medium to long term. As well as helping to organise the closing plenary for this programme, chaired by Sir Patrick and the CEO of UKRI Dame Ottoline Leyser, I edited and analysed the nine reports written by the participants, producing summary papers which have been published on gov.uk.
After the plenary, I moved onto a new project looking at UK Public Sector Research Establishments. These are a varied and undervalued part of the research landscape, and our goal was to create a framework to allow their funders and other policy officials to appreciate their value. This gave me a great insight into the core work of a civil servant – from managing stakeholder relationships to drafting policy documents and briefings.
I had a fantastic time at GO-Science, quickly feeling like part of the team and being given real responsibility. I would strongly recommend the UKRI Policy internship scheme to any PhD students interested in how science is used at the heart of Government.