Having always had an interest in working for the Civil Service, I decided to apply for a UKRI Policy Placement with Defra. I was extremely happy to find out I was successful, and I was placed in the Air Quality and Industrial Emissions (AQIE) team from June to September 2022. I regularly travelled to the London office to work which was a great opportunity to meet team members in person, discuss the different types of projects the team were working on and get to know other civil servants working across Defra. This also meant I could often grab some lunch and sit by the River Thames in the sun!
As I was working in the Evidence Team within AQIE, my main project was to conduct an evidence assessment looking at the relationships between air quality and health disparities in the UK. This was a great opportunity to apply my skills and knowledge learnt in my PhD as this was very closely related to my PhD project. I felt proud to be given ownership and responsibility of a project, which concluded with a report summarising the evidence and knowledge gaps on the subject. I was also invited back to give a presentation at a team meeting to communicate my findings and recommendations, the team were very interested in my work, and I felt my recommendations were taken on board.
In addition to my project, I was given opportunities to work on other pieces of work, attend meetings, participate in team days and even shadow other teams across Defra. This included shadowing in the Private Office, I observed how civil servants worked with elected members enabling me to get a better insight into how policy is communicated to decision-makers. Near the end of my placement, I also attended an expert group meeting, where the UK’s top scientists met to advise Government on issues relating to air quality, it was interesting to hear about the emerging topics and extremely valuable for my own research.
I highly recommend applying for a UKRI Policy Placement and experience working for the Civil Service. I felt very lucky to work with such a friendly and supportive team, who were able to give me some great advice for my future career. I really enjoyed being able apply my knowledge and skills developed from my PhD and I also learnt a great deal from the team – thank you AQIE!