The Economic and Social Research Council is, once again, offering its PhD students internships at policymaking organisations.
“Sitting in a university staring at statistical software all day, we can easily lose track of the reason many of us got into research in the first place—to try to answer important policy-related questions,” says social scientist Michael Sanders.
Sanders spent six months of last year working at the Cabinet Office’s Behavioural Insights Team as part of the 2012 ESRC internship scheme before heading back to the University of Bristol’s Centre for Market and Public Organisation, where he is working on his PhD.
The 2013 scheme is looking for ESRC-funded PhD students to apply for internships at organisations including the Cabinet Office, the Office for National Statistics and the Scottish Government.
“We encourage all our researchers to make a difference, and one way of doing this is to engage with policymakers and practitioners in business and the public sector,” says Dawn Woodgate, head of postgraduate training and career development at the ESRC.
Sanders says he found spending time with policymakers helped him to focus on which research questions were most likely to help people, and how to communicate them to a non-academic audience, such as civil servants. He also had the opportunity to learn about research techniques from his hosts.
“I got first-hand experience in designing and running randomised controlled trials, which would have been much harder to get otherwise,” he says.
Katie Adolphus, A PhD student at the University of Leeds’ Institute of Psychological Sciences, says her placement at the British Heart Foundation opened her eyes to a career in policy. “I made contacts within the British Heart Foundation, and I also worked with partner charities such as Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK, so I think I definitely made some contacts.”
The 95 internships on offer this year include participating in film campaigns about human trafficking, exploring the use of the police service’s social-media platform, and working with the Met Office to estimate the socio-economic benefits of reducing food waste through enhanced seasonal weather forecasts.
The deadline for applications is 8 March.