IAA support for Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) Fellowship

Lucy Smythe, School of Chemistry (IAA Project PI - Prof Mark Murrie)

Over the summer of 2021, Lucy Smythe, a 4th year PhD student from the School of Chemistry, undertook a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) fellowship to deliver a new POSTNote on Defence of space-based assets. A POST fellowship is a placement facilitated by POST, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, where Fellows usually work with POST but can work with other teams within the UK Parliament, such as libraries and select committees. PhD fellowships typically last for three months and are open to students registered for a PhD in a UK institution. During a POST fellowship, Fellows will assist POST or a team in Parliament with core work such as writing a briefing for parliamentarians, assisting with a select committee inquiry, or carrying out research.

This secondment was supported by a three-month fast track award (£6.5k) from the Impact Acceleration Account and allowed Lucy to take a break from her PhD studies to work with POST on a specific topic. Despite her background in Molecular Magnetism, Lucy was tasked with researching and reporting on the Defence of Space-Based Assets – it is common for POST fellows to investigate a topic outside their area of expertise.

“I applied for a POST fellowship as I was interested in how parliamentarians engage with science in order to make important legislative decisions. I wanted to gain more experience of writing in a policy setting and engaging with policymakers.

I had the opportunity to interview lots of people within the space and defence community: Government officials, leaders in business and academic experts. Satellites were not something I thought about regularly before my fellowship, however it was fascinating to learn how vital they are to many services and industries, how vulnerable they are, and the need to protect them.

Writing the briefing was a very collaborative process. My supervisor Lydia gave me lots of extremely helpful feedback and I also learnt a lot from her and other advisors about different career paths within policy. I learnt a lot about writing and presenting science in an unbiased way, and how to explain things concisely and clearly.

Both the Defence Select Committee and the Science and Technology Committee are running inquiries, about Space Defence & UK Space Strategy, and UK satellite infrastructure respectively, and my briefing was sent directly to the MPs involved in these inquiries. As a POST Fellow, I liaised with committee specialists to appoint an advisor for the Space Defence Inquiry.

I would really recommend PhD students to apply for a POST fellowship scheme if they are interested in science communication and engagement within a parliamentary setting.”

You can read Lucy’s POSTnote here.