Emmeline begun her fellowship in 2017 after hearing about POST through the RCUK scheme. Despite being an experienced member of Parliamentary staff, she was interested in experiencing another area of Parliament. POST’s work seemed to be closely aligned to her PhD research into the history of government research establishments and their role in developing scientific experts, but it ended up being about so much more.
The POST experience
Emmeline’s first taste of the work she would need to do was the application process, which she recalls required a fair amount of research. She had to put together a mini POSTnote (the flagship briefing produced by POST), but “it proved a good practice run for working on the note during the fellowship.”
First impressions were great. Everything felt welcoming and structured. She recalls how new fellows were being given thorough introductions to the new world they were entering. From tours of the estate to instructions on how to navigate the internal computer systems. “It was very clear what was expected of us and the timeframe for completing the research”. But perhaps most importantly she felt free to set her own course and felt respected as a researcher. “I appreciated being given freedom to approach the research in my own way and being treated as an equal by the POST permanent staff,” she reflects, being particularly appreciative of being able to arrange flexible working hours to fit in with commitments to her family.
Life after POST
It’s only been three years since the publication of Emmeline’s POSTnote on science diplomacy. Looking back, she recognises the extreme value of the fellowship. It doesn’t just stand out on applications, demonstrating that as an academic she has an understanding of the policy-making environment, and the ways in which academics can feed their research findings into that environment.
It also helped her to develop new skills in writing for a non-academic audience and to extend her network of contacts. A particular highlight was representing POST at the World Science Forum, in November 2017 in Jordan. “I met a variety of senior UK and international politicians, civil servants and academics while learning about an important policy issue.” She’s also continued to attend events concerned with UK science policy, allowing her to keep abreast of topical issues and what opportunities are available for working in science policy. She believes the fellowship gave her visibility and confidence to network at these events.
Beyond that it extended her understanding of the parliamentary research world, including the work of Libraries and Select Committees. “I appreciated being given the opportunity during the fellowship to attend select committee evidence sessions, Prime Ministers Questions and open sessions in the Vote Office and the Table Office.”
Currently she’s finishing up her PhD. “Watch this space!” she says cheerfully. She’s actually grateful to the fellowship, because it helped her consider a wider range of opportunities after her PhD. “The POST fellowship has actually provided me with a focus for post-doctoral research applications in that I would like to spend more time on researching the history of the scrutiny of science in Parliament.” Working at POST stimulated research into the history of the Commons Science and Technology Committee, and she plans to continue working on this after the PhD.
Advice to new POST fellows
When it comes to advice Emmeline has loads. “Think carefully about how you write the policy briefing for your application”, she says referring to the mini POSTnote fellows are requested to produce as part of their application. She encourages prospective fellows to do their research, read some POSTnotes and really understand how POSTnotes are structured.
“Take time to look at the POST programme of work and prepare for the interview by looking at the UK Parliament website. Find out about other organisations similar to POST in the UK and overseas.” She thinks the schemes are “ideal for arts and humanities researchers”.
But perhaps her best advice is also the simplest: “Apply!”
You can find Emmeline on Twitter @EmmeLedgerwood