Geoscientist, Flemish Institute of Technology
NERC Policy Intern Centre for Science and Policy (February - May 2012)
I enjoyed my PhD but struggled to see how my studies in geology could make a tangible contribution to society. I found this difficult because that had been my primary motivation for studying earth sciences. As part of my PhD programme I had the opportunity to undertake a three month policy internship funded by NERC (Natural Environment Research Council).
The NERC policy internship seemed a great way to find out for myself how science was used for policy. The year I applied was also the first year in which a placement was offered at CSaP (Centre for Science and Policy). This particular placement offered a rather unique insight into the world of science and policy, in addition to the opportunity to develop practical work-based skills that were different to the other possible placements.
My primary task during the internship was to run a workshop for academics and policy makers on a policy relevant topic. The workshop was held on “The Political Tractability of Ecosystem Services” at the Royal Society, London. It was a fantastic experience to run an event that was attended by the foremost thinkers and actors in this field.
My greatest insight however, was the value of effective communication of ideas, whether it be formal or informal. This is what the CSaP team specialises in. In particular I was amazed at some of the links that were made between a wide range of academic topics and policy issues through the Policy Fellowships scheme. Although I’m sure that it is not entirely independent of the calibre of Policy Fellows and academics that CSaP attracts.
I now work as a geoscientist for VITO (the Flemish Institute of Technological Research), primarily on geothermal energy resource and development. My experience with CSaP has been invaluable for understanding the greatest challenge for geothermal energy – the policy (predominantly funding) environment. I now recognise the importance of building links and collaborations throughout the industry and of optimising research focus in order to make progress in this field.