Alice Millington drew upon her specific academic knowledge to collaborate in a podcast series with CSaP (Centre for Science and Policy), giving her a chance to learn new skills by doing and gaining an insight via CSaP into the mechanics of working with non-academic institutions.
Alice’s summary of her 6-month fellowship told us about her approach and how she settled into remote working with the team:
“CSaP offered the chance for me to not just broaden my knowledge of the utilisation of academic knowledge in policy, but also heightened my understanding of the workings of Cambridge University and other academic and non-academic institutions across the country, including government. The role of CSaP as an intermediary or ‘broker’ between these institutions meant it was uniquely placed to give me an insight into a huge scope of organisations within just one fellowship .
I initially had a bit of a culture shock, especially given that the fellowship was remote, but I would say that within two weeks, I had a good understanding of the workplace and CSaP’s various active projects. This incrementally grew over the course of 6 months, and by the end of the fellowship , I had a very good grasp of how CSaP functioned, alongside its value to participants and the country as a whole.
I worked at CSaP for 6 months as a Policy Fellow. Some of my roles and experiences were:
- Researched for CSAP’s Science and Policy Podcast for three seasons, in which I researched and invited speakers, wrote interview questions, planned and mapped season arcs and episodes.
- Co-organised two workshops for DSTL, the UK government’s science and technology lab for the Ministry of Defence.
- Researched on project about procedural changes to SAGE over the course of the pandemic, in collaboration with CRASSH, Cambridge.
- Communications: authoring news articles, summaries of workshops, and contributions to the Annual Report.
As a Policy Fellow, I experienced the workings of almost every department/area of CSaP over the 6 months. The goal of my fellowship was to better understand how academic knowledge could inform policy.
I wouldn’t say I undertook specific training at CSaP, but I learnt a lot through experiential training – for instance, the logistics of organising a large workshop for the Dstl is something that specific training could never have prepared me for, but through the experience of actually doing it, with significant guidance from co-workers, I learnt a lot. Most of the learning I undertook was active and ‘on the job’, and it was perhaps more valuable for this.
It was definitely valuable to understand how academic knowledge produced in universities is viewed and approached by non-expert audiences and policymakers – to see how it is perceived from the other side has given me insight into how I can make my work more approachable to policymakers and non-experts, and thereby could increase the utility of my work to others.
The fellowship met my goal, because I definitely gained a better understanding of the policy end of things, and how academic knowledge can be utilised and communicated effectively to policymakers and non-expert audiences.
During my time with CSap I contributed and produced:
- Podcast episodes (about 14), available on Spotify
- Numerous news articles about events and workshops at CSaP that remain online
- Several longer reports about workshops which were not circulated publicly.
My academic knowledge was particularly useful for the final season of the podcast that I worked on – one that dealt with ‘remote spaces’, including the deep ocean, outer space, and Antarctica. My own work has started to veer in the direction of exploring polar narratives and geopolitics, therefore I could bring a lot of guidance and informed perspectives to the mapping of the season and its episodes. I also used my own knowledge of relevant academics to invite to this podcast series, rather than needing to rely on internet research for possible speakers.
As someone who hopes to make policy impact with their academic work, this was an incredibly valuable experience in terms of learning how I could make my work policy-relevant. It also taught me how academics could and should engage with organisations and ‘knowledge brokers’ such as CSaP to maximise their impact – I wasn’t aware that these organisations existed beforehand, but now know how valuable this experience would be. However, it also helped me be realistic about the degree of policy impact that my PhD could make, and the pace at which that might happen – which I think is also very useful to know.
The transferrable skills and experiences I gained were:
- Understanding how a podcast is produced and publicised
- Experience of helping organising large, multi-stakeholder events and workshops
- Insight into a variety of different organisations and institutions through their collaboration with CSaP
- Developing a succinct communication style
Beyond my academic knowledge, I think I brought my enthusiasm, reliability, communication and collaboration skills to the project. It is an excellent scheme that will provide you with so much professional and personal value beyond your PhD. I would absolutely recommend being a placement student and I am so grateful that these opportunities exist.”
Alice Millington’s fellowship with CSaP took place between November 2020 and May 2021.