Robert applied to the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Policy Internship Scheme, via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). “Undertaking a Policy Internship was encouraged by the South-West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTP),” he says, “so I spent some time looking at the options on the UKRI website and decided that working at POST best aligned to my interests.”
The POST experience
“My first week at POST was really enjoyable”, says Robert as it provided him with an opportunity to meet other POST Fellows, have a guided tour around the Palace of Westminster, and get to know his adviser, Dr Rowena Bermingham. “The week was well balanced, allowing for necessary information about processes and expectations to be shared, while not being too overwhelming. “
But it doesn’t take long before the work really kicks off as fellows typically get three months to finish a POSTnote under the supervision of their designated POST adviser. Robert worked on POSTnote 613 related to non-custodial sentences – sentences that do not include imprisonment. During his time at POST he presented trends in sentencing and described the range of non-custodial sentences being used across England and Wales. He also reviewed evidence on the effectiveness of non-custodial sentences and current policy considerations.
Having three months to essentially become somewhat of an expert on an entirely new topic can be intimidating to some. But Robert embraced it, finding working on a topic far removed from his own research interests unexpectedly positive. In fact, he believes the time away from his PhD thesis highlighted the soft skills that the PhD process had fostered in him.
Overall, he says “the workload was as demanding as it was rewarding, driven by the fact that your work could inform political debate and potentially lead to changes in policy.”
One of the highlights for Robert was sharing an office with other fellows and the team of advisers. “This made for a positive work environment” he says, “allowing for shared experiences to develop my own thinking.”
Life after POST
It’s been two years since Robert’s fellowship. He’s now submitted his PhD thesis and works as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre (CHERC), University of Exeter.
His role is focused on co-creating injury prevention measures for competitive adolescent distance runners, in partnership with England Athletics.
Thinking about his current role and the impact of the fellowship, looking at the bigger picture he finds a connection.
“The POST Fellowship has helped me to realise that there are plenty of non-academic opportunities that are available and align to the skillset that I have developed throughout my PhD.” The Fellowship he adds, has also been a valuable addition to his academic CV, as it demonstrates his insight on working at the interface between research and policy.
Beyond professional achievement, Robert thinks the fellowship gave him an opportunity for introspection.
“As a person who stammers, undertaking this Fellowship allowed me to (re)address how I perceived my stammer.”
“I learned that my stammer was a positive attribute for many aspects of this role, framed as a productive difference. Although interviewing experts for the POSTnote pushed me out of my comfort zone, disclosing my stammer before these exchanges seemed to put both parties at ease.”
“I believe that this supported the quality of each interview, thereby helping to inform the creation of an accurate and impartial analysis of the given public-policy issue.”
Advice to new POST fellows
When it comes to advice to prospective POST fellows Robert keeps it simple and straightforward.
You can find Robert on Twitter @Robert_Mann_