By Megan Tresise, PhD student, School of Biology, the University of Leeds
I’m Megan, now a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Leeds and I am one of the two PhD students in the second cohort of the N8 AgriFood funded Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) Fellowship.
This Fellowship has been one of the most interesting and career-shaping opportunities presented to me during my PhD. I have gained skills that complement my professional development goals, that I hope will improve my employability down the line. For three months between October and December 2021, I was given the chance to research and write my own POSTnote on Restoring Agricultural Soils. This POSTnote is the product of a highly topical area of both research and policy right now, with Defra highlighting ambitions to manage all of England’s soils sustainably by 2030 and talks of a new Soil Health Action Plan for England (SHAPE).
From drafting up my first Scope to making the final edits ready for the sign-off, this opportunity has been a great challenge, and I feel lucky to have been given the chance to do this. I chose to work hybridly during my Fellowship, which N8 AgriFood and POST supported and made arrangements for me to work like this. It was fun getting to go into an office environment and work around other POST Fellows and advisors, it also gave me a taster of London living having been in Leeds for 6 years. I would say that one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was communicating with key stakeholders, including academics, NGOs and government departments. Due to the topic of the POSTnote, I found myself interviewing people that I have been referencing throughout my PhD and meeting new people to learn about their research in soil science. One of the main lessons I learned during the Fellowship was that the academic style of writing is completely different to writing for policymakers. It’s important to keep in mind that the audience is likely non-expert and the writing should be impartial, reflect what the evidence says and not what you think. This is a useful skill I can bring back to my academic role if I choose to pursue further policy-based reviews.
Additional opportunities presented themselves whilst I was on the Fellowship, such as attending the UKRI Net Zero Parliamentary Reception to talk with academics and industry leaders about their net zero research and technology. Additionally, a meeting was arranged by another POST Fellow between the Fellows and the POST Board, where we could discuss the impact of our POSTnotes on policy and how best to contribute as researchers. Career development was another strong highlight of the Fellowship, with sessions created to enable Fellows to talk to the POST advisors and members of the civil service more informally about progression into a policy career.
I would like to thank N8 AgriFood for funding this excellent opportunity and the POST team for their continuous patience and support during the Fellowship!
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