Earlier this year I had the wonderful opportunity to do a 3-month UKRI Policy Internship at Senedd Research. The bursary provided by UKRI meant I was able to relocate to Cardiff for the duration of the placement, meaning I could work in the office, meet my colleagues face-to-face and attend First Ministers Questions and a Committee meeting in person.
During my placement I learnt a lot about the role and workings of the Welsh Parliament, devolution, and how Senedd Research ensures Members of Senedd (MS’s) can make informed decisions. Senedd Research produce short 1000-word articles on topical issues or upcoming legislation and longer, more detailed research briefings. These publications are primarily aimed at informing policy-makers with a secondary objective of informing the public, and are all published online. Senedd Research also assist Committees in their scrutiny of Government by writing committee briefings, sourcing witnesses to give evidence and suggesting questions to ask.
I was based in the Financial Scrutiny Unit (FSU), which was surprising at first as I know nothing about financial scrutiny. However, the FSU also deal with statistics and data visualisation, which I do know something about. My role was essentially cross-service data science support and as such I produced infographics and interactive maps for publications on a range of topics from the impact of the 20mph speed limit on casualties from road traffic accidents, to the distribution of Levelling-up funding across Wales. I also produced the statistics and infographics for two articles on access to dentistry and responded to enquiries from MS’s for data. My major output was a research briefing presenting key statistics about farming in Wales, aimed at informing the development of the upcoming Agriculture in Wales Bill. I really enjoyed the variety of tasks that the cross-service role provided; I was able to work with colleagues from other teams and learn about a wide range of different issues and topics (one day I was researching the number of sheep in Wales, and the next I was investigating how deprivation and age affects access to dentists).
Generally, I enjoyed the ‘insider’ insight into upcoming political developments and it was exciting to be working in the Senedd during a period of rapid political change. The experience also gave me more faith in political processes and politicians! From Day One I felt a welcomed and valued member of FSU and the wider Senedd Research Team and I met some really lovely, interesting people during my time there. The placement was really well organised and designed and I would recommend it to anyone interested in politics and science communication. The experience improved my writing skills, particularly my ability to write clearly and concisely for a non-specialist audience, and I learnt new techniques for data visualisation and coding, all of which will help me in my PhD.