Science blog

07 October 2014

Summer of Science Policy

Rachel Huddart looks back on the last three months working with the British Library Science Team

I decided to apply for a BBSRC Science Policy internship on a whim while traveling to a conference in Hungary. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. As competition for an increasingly small number of postdoctoral positions increases, having a chance to get out of the lab environment and discover what opportunities there are outside of academia is a fantastic boost to your future career. Turns out there are a lot.

While I’ve been here at the British Library, I’ve worked on two main projects. The first one was the TalkScience event ‘Biotech on the Farm: Food for Thought?’ which looked at the future of meat production and consumption. My PhD is about the genetic modification of livestock animals and organising TalkScience gave me a great opportunity to take a step back from my thesis and look at the bigger picture of food security and sustainability. Researching the topic was fascinating (you can read a brief summary of what I learned here), although staring at pictures of delicious food – which get used a lot in food security reports – did make me incredibly hungry!

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had four fantastic speakers who agreed to be on the panel and, despite my initial nerves, the debate was lively, interesting and informative. The audience seemed to enjoy it and posed lots of interesting questions, including asking whether we could get our pets to cut down on the amount of meat they eat. I definitely learnt a lot about where my work fits into the bigger picture as well as the myriad other factors which are at play in our struggle to have a secure, sustainable supply of meat. The video of the event is below, if you want to check it out for yourself.


My second task was to help the Science team with a project investigating how people working in science policy access information. This project is still in the early stages but it gave me the chance to visit other science policy organisations and learn about their work. It’s been really interesting to learn how much information, other than scientific articles, go into producing policy documents and how varied that information is as well as what barriers people working in science policy encounter when they look for information.


TalkScience audience (Copyright: British Library Board)

But that hasn’t been all. I’ve learned about so many other things from the life of Isaac Newton to the basics of writing computer code. By now, you’ve probably guessed that work here at the British Library is incredibly varied and always interesting. I’ve gained lots of new skills and brushed up on some older ones, like writing for non-academic audiences. I’m so pleased that I decided to do this internship (and even more pleased that the Science team agreed to take me on!) and now I can’t wait to see how I use everything I’ve learned in my future career

Rachel Huddart

Are you a NERC, BBSRC or AHRC- funded PhD student interested in science policy? Find out more about the Policy Internship scheme here.


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