Georgia Leith: Case study

at University of Sussex

ESRC PhD Student, Department of Psychology, University of Sussex
ESRC Policy Intern, Centre for Science and Policy (August 2014 - Nov 2014)

I applied for the internship at the Centre for Science and Policy because I was interested in how scientific evidence becomes social policy. My PhD research relates closely to governmental policy, but being immersed in the academic world meant I had little understanding in the policy making process - and the internship with CSaP, which brokers relationships between civil servants and research experts, seemed like the ideal opportunity to get an understanding of this.

My internship was working on the Policy Challenges Programme. I worked on the three Challenges running at the time, which were all at different stages of the process. This meant that I was part of the initiation stage of the Big Data challenge, maintaining the Ageing Challenge, and finalising the Resilient Cities Challenge. So as well as learning about a variety of policy issues the programme was designed to address, I also got an overview of the whole process of running a programme like this.

I was given responsible tasks from day one, and these tasks were varied and exciting. My main role was to organise Policy Challenge workshops: inviting senior civil servants, academics and experts from relevant industry areas; producing material for the workshops; writing summaries of workshop discussions; and all the logistics that event management requires. I was also involved in editing and proof-reading an upcoming Policy Challenges publication, creating videos of workshop presentations, designing an evaluation survey, and keeping the website and other communications up-to-date.

I found the working environment of CSaP inspiring. I was expected to play an active role in the CSaP team from the start, in group decision-making, putting forward ideas, and helping out with other CSaP events and publicising. My colleagues were welcoming, interesting and dynamic, and were always offering me other parallel opportunities when they arose, some of which turned out to be invaluable for my current research.

Working at CSaP has given me a grounded understanding of the policy world just as I hoped. I learned about the gaps between policy and academia, and current efforts and initiatives to bridge this gap. As a researcher, the internship has equipped me with a new insight into how research can be shared, understood and applied in policy. I also leave with newly refined professional skills picked up from each member of the team at CSaP, which will no doubt be useful for my future career – whether it be in academia, the civil service, or indeed the interface of the two.