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Experiences of a Parliamentary secondment

Feb 2020: PhD student Maggi Laurie reflects on her 3-month secondment to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

Last year, CCBS PhD student Maggi Laurie was awarded a policy research fellowship from the British Psychological Society. She recently undertook  a 3-month secondment to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) in Westminster.

Now that Maggi is back at the University, she told us about her experiences.

Parliamentary Knowledge Exchange

POST is UK Parliament’s in-house knowledge exchange office, which aims to work with academics, researchers, policymakers and third sector organisations to ensure that parliamentarians have the latest and best available evidence on a range of topics.

POST’s main output are POSTnotes, which are four-page briefings written for a general audience, aiming to give a non-expert reader an overview of a topic and relevant policy implications. POST produces briefings on four main areas: health and medicine, energy and environment, physical sciences and computing technologies, and social sciences, and many notes draw on evidence across these four areas.

POSTnote autism

On my 3-month placement, I was tasked with producing a POSTnote autism. POSTnotes are produced through a combination of literature review, including from academic and non-academic sources (e.g. charity and policy reports, research in non-academic outputs), and through interviews with key stakeholders across academic, non-profit and charity organisations, and policy spheres.

POSTnotes are thoroughly peer reviewed both internally in parliament and externally by over 20 interviewed stakeholders.  It was an exciting and busy few months pulling it all together, and since my own PhD research at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences is on autism it was an honour to get to work with such fantastic autism researchers and charities across the UK (as shown in the acknowledgements!)

Transferable skills

I took away many valuable skills and experiences from my POST placement. For one, I’d never really been to London before, and once I’d gotten over the shell shock and the Tube, I enjoyed exploring an entirely new city, very different to the ones we have in Scotland. When I came back to Edinburgh to finish my PhD thesis, I found that my writing was much clearer, condensed and straight to the point (it’s amazing the amount of information that can be squeezed into four pages! Why use any more?).

And finally, hearing the passion and testimony from stakeholders on how to improve the lives of autistic people re-ignited a spark in me that brought me to this research area in the first place, and reminded me of the importance of the work that we do as researchers and the (often over-looked) real-world implications of academic research.

To find out more at POST, and how your work can influence policy in the UK see the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology website.

Related links

Read Maggi's POSTnote autism

Maggi Laurie's profile