For the last seven months, I have been working with Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle as part of the King’s Parliamentary Research Internship scheme, organised by the Policy Institute at King’s College London. During that time, I have had the opportunity to work with her on a wide range of projects: from drafting articles on the need for onshore wind or the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency; to wrangling 30 stakeholders in the field of agricultural advisory services to consult on the foundation of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group; to writing speech notes for her Question for Short Debate on Treasury investment in times of climate change.
As someone who has spent the best part of the last 10 years thinking about or doing scientific research in every waking moment, working in Parliament is a breath of fresh air. The impact of one’s work is felt much more immediately, as research done one week can be integrated into a speech in the Chamber the next, forever being recorded in the Hansard. This is quite different to the endless troubleshooting of experiments many PhD students will be used to.
Though there are obvious differences between the two types of work, the similarities are most interesting—and perhaps more numerous than one might think at first glance. Reaching out to stakeholders for a consultation is not worlds away from setting up new collaborations with members of other labs. Convincing Peers to endorse a project may not be identical to convincing one’s supervisor to purchase a fancy new piece of equipment, but it certainly leverages the same skillset. Of course, the great immutable similarity is that research is research; the skills you need to properly understand your field of study by reviewing the literature, immediately and directly translate to writing policy briefs in less familiar territory.
I strongly recommend that BSAC members, as well as the STEM community more widely, try to interface with policy as a matter of course. An exciting opportunity to do so will soon be in place for BSAC’s early-career research members: working with Baroness Bennett and Michael Corley, BSAC’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, we have set up a new BSAC Parliamentary Internship Scheme. More details will be released soon—so watch this space for more information!
Paul-Enguerrand Fady is a BSAC Member, final-year PhD Candidate in Pharmaceutical Science at King’s College London and the UK Health Security Agency. His research focuses on the intersection between bacterial resistance to antiseptics and human innate immune mediators. His interests outside of research include policy, kayaking, and bouldering.