Science policy careers

Typical employers would be scientific professional bodies, e.g. Royal Society, Institute of Physics, and public sector organizations, e.g. the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).

Internationally, many of the issues coming before the European Parliament, for example, have a scientific or technological theme. They may be proposals directly relating to research or innovation policy, or measures concerning the many ways in which science and technology impact on society, the economy or the environment. Consult the Europa website for details of traineeships and links to the websites of individual institutions, bodies, and agencies. Other websites such as Eurobrussels show a wide range of policy-related opportunities in Europe.

The few entry-level opportunities in this sector tend to be advertised in the New ScientistTimes Higher Education, and The Guardian. CaSE: Campaign for Science and Engineering also publicise some opportunities via their website.

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Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST) Fellowships

POST runs several fellowship schemes with Research Councils, learned societies and charities, through which academics are sponsored to spend time working in Parliament.

Fellowships open to PhD students are schemes that enable PhD students to spend (usually) three months working at POST. Most fellows will research, write and publish a POSTnote during their time with us, but some fellows have instead been placed with a Parliamentary Select Committee or Library. Further information about the fellowship schemes is posted here and on the sponsoring organizations’ websites.

Fellowships open to postdoctoral researchers are open to academics working in different subject areas and at all career levels. Academics can apply to work on a project proposed by a department in Parliament, or submit a project of their choosing. Fellowships can be between one to twelve months in duration.

Government Office for Science (GOS) Internship

The Government Office for Science (GOS) recruits up to 20 graduate interns to work on a wide range of important high-profile science and policy issues. More information on the next round of applications should be available in the GOS website in the future.

GOS advises the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, to ensure that government policies and decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence and strategic long-term thinking. The internship provides an exciting opportunity to support the work of GOS in delivering evidence to inform policy making across Government.

Research Council Policy Internships Scheme

The Research Council Policy Internships Scheme provides the opportunity for Research Council-funded PhD students to work for three months in one of a selected group of highly influential policy organizations. The scheme selects on average 125 interns from 25 host partners. The internship provides an opportunity to be trained on a policy topic and write a briefing paper, participate in a policy inquiry, and, or organise a policy event.

The Royal Society Pairing Scheme

The scheme takes place annually, beginning with a ‘Week in Westminster’ in which the pairs first meet. Over the week the scientists take part in workshops, hear from invited speakers and spend two days shadowing their pair.

Policy Placement Scheme

NERC’s Policy Placement Fellowship Scheme allows researchers and other staff involved in environmental science research to work closely with policymakers within government and other public and third sector organizations in the UK. The scheme also allows placements of government and third sector policymakers to work within NERC head office and research centers.

Civil Service Fast Stream — Science & Engineering

Science and Engineering Fast Streamers work on issues as diverse as climate change, bioscience policy, defense technology, transport innovation and food production. You’ll take on a range of roles across the Civil Service, some have a substantial policy element, others are more technical in nature. This will give you access to a wide range of exciting career pathways, quite different from those found in academia and industry. You’ll apply your specialist skills and knowledge to the development and application of policies, acting as an expert customer, developing an evidence base and undertaking the systematic analysis.

The Academy of Medical Sciences Internship

The Academy of Medical Sciences has an internship for PhD students to gain a fully funded first-hand experience of the medical science environment. This internship usually lasts three months, where the intern will experience policy reports, consultations to grant panels, and career support. You can find internship case studies on the website.

United Nations Internship Programme

If you are thinking of entering the world of diplomacy and public policy, an internship at the United Nations could be the ideal start for you. The objective of the internship is to give you a first-hand impression of the day-to-day working environment of the United Nations.

Further reading

Sources from UNESCO

UNESCO is also involved in many mechanisms that aim to strengthen the links between science and policy:

  • International Network for Government Science Advice (INGSA): UNESCO and the International Council for Science (ICSU) have formed an official partnership to work together, through INGSA, to improve national scientific advisory systems and capacities;
  • Scientific Advisory Board of the UN Secretary General: UNESCO established its board and hosts its secretariat;
  • Future Earth: as a partner of this international research initiative for accelerating transformations to a sustainable world, UNESCO focuses on building and mobilizing relevant expertise in developing countries, promoting the mainstreaming of relevant findings into education curricula, and encouraging the uptake of scientific findings in policies and practices;
  • Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): UNESCO contributes to generating knowledge and assessing the status and trends of biodiversity and ecosystem services, identifying possible policy responses and building capacity at the biodiversity science-policy interface. In addition, UNESCO strongly encourages the recognition of and respect for indigenous and local knowledge in all aspects of IPBES;
  • Broadening the Application of the Sustainability Science Approach: through this project, UNESCO aims to identify good practices and develop policy guidelines to help countries harness the potential of sustainability science in their sustainable development strategies.

UNESCO also organizes international forums that bring together scientists, policy-makers, and civil society:

  • World Science Forum: a major biennial event that sets out the path ahead for science, policy, and society;
  • Global Innovation Forum: a biennial forum that provides a unique occasion to promote a culture of innovation by sharing ideas, knowledge, and experience on nurturing innovation;
  • National STI policy and reform consultations and forums: UNESCO actively collaborates with national governments to initiate dialogue between central STI stakeholders and facilitates inter-ministerial coordination and communication with scientific communities;
  • Parliamentary Fora in STI policy: through these Fora, UNESCO aims to mobilize the participation and engagement of all key stakeholders in science governance processes to foster better governance of STI and create sustainable societies.