Nia Jones: UKRI Policy Placement with Defra
In late 2021 I applied for a UKRI Policy Placement with Defra and was lucky enough to be placed within the Climate Adaptation Evidence team from February to April 2022. Despite the emerging Omicron variant of COVID causing further lockdowns, like a lot of other Defra employees I was able to effectively work from home for the duration of my placement, and lucky enough to travel to London a couple of times for specific team-building days to meet colleagues face to face. I was placed within the evidence team of the wider Climate Adaptation Division, working with colleagues who had completed or were completing their PhDs and have since moved into policy. It was great to work so closely with this team and observe how skills developed during a PhD could be transferrable and put to good use in a policy setting.
During my placement my main project was to conduct a report synthesising the priorities for an Adaptation Research and Innovation Framework. This work was directly requested by the Chief Scientific Advisor’s Office to compliment other recent reports and it was a great experience to be leading on something of department-wide interest. During my time on this project I was able to conduct a literature review, interview sector and academic experts and facilitate workshops on climate adaptation. Despite my PhD being based in the physical sciences, I found engaging with social scientists and the science of adaptation particularly eye opening and enjoyed working within the topic of climate change with such practical applications (e.g. how can public services adapt to increasing heat waves?). My placement ended with a report and a presentation to the wider Climate Adaptation department, and I was appreciative that my recommendations were met with such enthusiasm and engagement.
My placement was a lot more than the main project I worked on. I was able to have one-to-one meetings with multiple people across my department, throughout Defra and other related organisations (e.g. Met Office and Cefas) to discuss job opportunities, interviewing techniques and upskilling including senior Defra staff. Being able to discuss my skills and receive career advice from such a varied group of people was immensely valuable and I now feel more confident moving forward with my career following my PhD. While my placement was mostly home-based I was able to travel to London for a couple of team-days. It was a great experience to work in what felt like the middle of government and start to learn how different government departments work more practically.
I whole-heartedly recommend applying for a UKRI placement to be able to experience a different sector, research topics and way of working. The experience and connections I have made during the placement has been a highlight of my time as a student, increasing my confidence and giving me a well needed boost towards the end of my PhD!