Anusha completed her fellowship in 2014. At the time she was conducting a post-doc in both the US and the UK, at the Harvard Medical School and the Pirbright Institute at the University of Leeds. In parallel to her research, she was involved in various workshops and events around the use of evidence in government health and research funding policies.
When a fellow researcher mentioned POST, Anusha investigated what the bicameral department does and she decided to apply.
The POST experience
Anusha describes her time at POST as intense yet smooth. Being used to juggling a variety of projects at the same time was hugely useful in the role as she ended up delivering: a POSTnote on genetically modified (GM) insects and disease control; a roundtable discussion at the House of Lords on the topic of GM insects; oral evidence to a Lords inquiry; an opinion piece on the topic; and she helped launch a public event at Charles Darwin House!
“I was lucky to have a good [POST] supervisor and a familiar topic!” jokes Anusha. Anusha says she had to quickly understand not only her topic, but also the key stakeholders of the GM landscape, and how to write sensitively for a parliamentary audience.
Anusha said the fellowship was much more fun and challenging than she expected. Most notable was the steep and, according to Anusha, exponential learning curve of the fellowship. “It was the thing that made me make the switch from academia to the policy world!”
Life after POST
After her fellowship Anusha returned to her post-doc, but she was done with academia. “The fellowship opened my eyes to the role of science in policymaking, impacting lives, making a difference. It made me reflect and shape my thinking of the values and principles closest to me. I could then see which career path would best fit these and my personality.”
She only really returned to tie up loose ends and to wrap up some final experiments for a paper she was working on. As soon as she was done, she moved into policy, first at UCL, then the UK Government, and is now working at the European Cooperation in Science and Technology. “The fellowship provided me with a strong network, many of whom are friends and I continue to use as sounding boards,” she reflects. And she’s determined to share her enthusiasm and help others build their networks. “I continue to volunteer as a STEM and WISE [Women into Science and Engineering] ambassador and speak passionately about evidence based policymaking.”
Advice for POST fellows
Anusha says that for science to influence policy, the wider policy making system needs to be considered. “Science is not the only evidence taken into consideration when making a policy decision. How science is communicated and when is critical to influencing policymaking.” In fact she learnt that one of the key elements of science policy is empathy. “Empathy is key to efficient policymaking leading to better results benefiting society.”
So what advice can she impart to new POST fellows? “Enjoy it and find ways to maximise and capitalise on your experience at POST. The experience and networks you establish and nurture are invaluable! Don’t be shy of asking questions, disagreeing and getting invited to places and events in Parliament and beyond!”
You can find Anusha on Twitter @AnushaPanjwani