For the longest time, I thought I wanted to work the rest of my life behind a microscope or be that lady in a white coat which seemed cool. However, as I go through my lab-based degree, I realize that all the lab stuff doesn’t match my personality and it isn’t as exciting as much. I want a career that keeps my interest in science alive but also explores new interests. A career that will help me stretch myself and enjoy variety to different working hours and environments. That is when my interest in science policy sparked.
For anyone else feeling the same, let me walk you through what I have learnt about how a career in science policy looks like.
Science policy is the act of applying scientific knowledge and skills to the development of policies. This can be done by evaluating, researching and consulting with stakeholders, which will then inform the best advice for the government or relevant organization to adopt. Studying science policy make you somewhat more conversant with the language and process of policymakers. It makes you more familiar with the sociology of scientists and how science is done. You are familiar with different methodologies and you develop a different perspective on the role of science in the policy arena. You will also need to interact with people from a broad range of backgrounds, sectors and cultures as well as be able to listen to and understand different points of view.
Basic skills needed
1.Communication: essential for getting your message and evidence across effectively both in-person and in writing.
2.People skills: relating to people at all levels of seniority is important to draw out information, ideas and persuade them to act.
3.Research and analysis: scrutinizing evidence to find trustworthy sources, breaking down complex information and drawing conclusions about what it means.
4.Project management and time management: typical for juggling multiple projects and deadline.
Where you can work
One can work at government agencies, non-profit organisation or even private companies. For example in civil service, one can help shape government policy and decision making using scientific knowledge and technique. One could be working on issues as diverse as climate change or transport and innovation. In non-profit and private companies, you can help understand and advocate for specific policies and regulations.
A day in the life of a science policy expert
Collecting and synthesising information, writing reports and policy documents, identifying and analysing policies on different topics. Meet with colleagues in other organisation and talk about various policy issues.
This is obviously not everything,there is still a lot to learn about this field.
With this in mind, it certainly feels like a huge career jump and for someone else like me who is about to graduate, we have that one question, what next? or even how do I get started? but trust me, it is not that complicated. Though with the pandemic, most of us are not really confident about job security. Just trust the process, it may be slow but it will get better. Balance your confidence with open-mindedness, be persistent and flexible.
Most importantly, be active in looking for opportunities. Most times, we get to be lazy but it is important to push ourselves and come out of our comfort zone. Besides that, understand your skills. You might have gained lots of transferable skills throughout your degree, as well as any work, volunteering or societies you’ve been involved in. Think about the transferable skills you have and also the ones that you may need to strengthen or develop. There are lots of ways you can develop new skills, from volunteering (including online volunteering), online courses, virtual work experience, etc. With the current situation, it is even better since you don’t have to look only within your geographical location. Another thing that most of us don’t find easy is networking. I believe this plays a big role especially if you are looking for a career change. It is definitely a skill that needs the patience to nurture. Additionally, you can read papers on science policy or even join policy networks.
Before I start to sound more like a motivational speaker, let me conclude by saying, the exciting thing about science policy is that healthcare is a constantly changing industry and the policy decisions made today will have a significant effect on the healthcare system of the future.