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Collaboration case study: Matthew McGuire, Social Anthropology - CSaP

Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP)

Summary of the collaborative activity:

I worked as an ESRC-funded policy intern at the Centre for Science and Policy for a three month period from October 2015 to January 2016. The main project of my internship was a workshop on intellectual property and large DNA bioresources organised by Dr. Kathy Liddell and Dr. John Liddicoat (Centre for Law, Medicine and Life Sciences). I was working on this event from my first day to my last, and I was told it was hugely useful to participants.

I also ran an evaluation project, where I would go to London to meet senior civil servants for interviews about the impact of their fellowship with the Centre on their ongoing activities. The recordings from these interviews were transcribed and then edited into case studies which have been included in CSaP’s annual report and in the launch of the new website. Additionally, I was involved in a number of other workshops and activities, including helping organise lunchtime meetings in London for policy makers and designing and implementing surveys and other evaluation assessments.

What were the aims of the collaborative activity?

There were a number of aims of this activity. Firstly, I wanted to explore ways I could apply the skills learned in my PhD to a different working environment. At the moment I am thinking about careers both within and outside academia, so it was important for me that I ‘test out’ my existing skills in a new context. Secondly, my aim was to learn about how early career academics can work with different stake holders. I think it is particularly important that we have the skills to deal with external organisations and bodies, whether these are funders, government officials or industry partners. Particularly in the social sciences where subjects are under increasing pressure to demonstrate impact, it is useful to know about the infrastructures and languages that go into assessment procedures and the like. Thirdly, I wanted to think more broadly about what someone trained in anthropological method could offer to a sector that isn’t academia, and how these skills could be transferred to an intermediary organisation like CSaP.

Did the activity meet these aims?

Absolutely. All of my aims were met. I particularly found that thinking about career paths and future directions outside academia was incredibly hard to do without having direct experience of working in different environments. While I still don’t know what I’m going to do, I have a much better idea of the kind of organisations that exist—I’ve worked directly with them! I think I have a much better grasp of how to market myself as an academic and generalist. For example, I felt very sceptical before about governmental assessments of higher education. I still feel doubtful about the efficacy of these measures, but I also realise how important it is that I think in these terms about my own work. Civil servants work with a very different register to academics, and while the conversation between government and academia does not often capture the full complexity of research, it is useful to learn how to present your research to a non-specialist audience.

What ‘added value’ has this collaborative activity brought to you as a DTC student?

As I have mentioned, I think it’s helped me communicate my research findings and has allowed me to think more productively about my future career. It has also given me general skills that will be useful in the years to come (evaluation, editing, transcription, note-taking etc.)