By Oliver Summers, Project Research Officer, Government Office for Science
In 2012, during the first year of my undergraduate degree, I received an email about an opportunity to question key political figures about science policy in the UK. This was the first Voice of the Future event, and I’ve been hooked on science policy ever since!
I’ve always been interested in science and politics, in fact before deciding to settle on studying biology at university I was considering a politics degree. I always thought it was a binary choice that science and politics were separate, but participating in events such as Voice of the Future revealed this isn’t the case.
After graduating in Biosciences from the University of Greenwich, I then decided to pursue my passion for science policy by undertaking a Masters in Science and Technology Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex. In the space of 3 months after my Masters I had applied and been offered an internship with the Government Office for Science (Go-Science).
They say a week is a long time in politics, try a day in government!
Coming straight from a Masters and 6 years part time experience in retail, Go-Science and life as a Civil Servant was (and to be honest still is) a major culture shock. There are the 9-5 weekdays, the commuting, security quandaries and the endless admin! One day I couldn’t even get a cup of coffee from the staff canteen because the President of Croatia was visiting and everywhere was on lockdown!
But it’s all worth it because I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do for years. I wanted to work in the nexus of science and policy, and GO-Science is the gold standard for making sure the government has access to the best expertise and advice to inform decision making. My team, the Government Science & Engineering (GSE) Profession, is a professional group that spans across the Government to represent civil servants with backgrounds or roles in science and engineering.
There are 10,000 Civil Servants that identify with the GSE profession, and we support them with their careers and continuing professional development. Our GSE story is a great visual reminder of the important role played by government scientists and engineers.
Bully for you Ollie, but what about me?
Well there’s no one size fits all for getting involved in science policy, but just raising your awareness of the fact that there are careers, opportunities and even the field of science policy is a start!
More and more universities are running degrees and modules in Science and Technology Studies, and Science Communication. Professional bodies and learned societies such as the Biochemical Society, have policy events and talks. You can follow these people and events on twitter and social media. You can submit evidence to Science and Technology Select Committee inquiries, and as I’ve hopefully shown there are great and rewarding opportunities within government and the UK Civil Service.
So go on, what’s stopping you?
The author is writing in a personal capacity. The views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of the Government Office for Science, and the UK Government.