Interested in influencing UK scientific policy? Early deadlines for the new Science and Engineering Fast Stream scheme
If you were at the presentation last week by the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir Mark Walport, you’ll already have heard about the new Science and Engineering Fast Stream and the role of scientists in government. It was clear from the numbers (10,000+ scientists employed) and range of opportunities available that the skills and knowledge of higher level graduates in these fields are highly valued across all government departments.
If you think this might be a path for you, make sure you’re not caught out by the early closing date for 2015 entry – 3rd November for Generalist (Science and Engineering) Fast Stream. Depending on your interests, you might also want to consider other Fast Stream programmes. These include ‘Analytical’ (Government Economics, Operational Research, Social Research and Statistical services), ‘Digital and Technology’ and ‘Communications’. Each Fast Stream scheme has a separate application process and closing date so it’s important to check these as soon as possible as the earliest is 30 September. Full details are listed on the Fast Stream timetable. The Civil Service blog and Facebook page are worth reading for further insights into some of the work done by government scientists and general advice on applications for the fast stream. Alternatively, you can apply direct to Civil Service jobs advertised online. If you missed the presentation last week, read on for a summary of the key points.
Scientists and engineers are expected to act as the interface between the experts and the policy makers, bridging the gap between the ‘outside world of science and the inside world of government’. Think architect liaising between the builder and the customer to construct a new building except in this case, you’re translating scientific information rather than building designs and concepts, in order to inform scientific policy and planning. Fast Stream entrants have the potential to become permanent secretaries within 10-15 years of joining.
Applicants need to be able to recognise the transferability of their scientific skills and reasoning and be willing to engage with a multitude of issues around five key government priorities:
- to ensure health wellbeing, security and resilience of our national infrastructure;
- ensuring the right science for emergencies;
- ensure knowledge is translated into economic advantage;
- to underpin policy with evidence;
- provide leadership for science and advocacy.
Further requirements include the ability to analyse large volumes of information and data and identify key issues, make decisions often with incomplete information, communicate succinctly and be willing to challenge others and defend your recommendations. Roles range from lab based work to advisory and policy making.
Direct application to a Civil Service job (opportunities are posted via the Civil Service Jobs Portal) is an alternative entry route and based on the experiences of a PhD graduate contributor, this can offer similar opportunities to the fast stream. Scientists and engineers are also employed as scientific advisers but this is only an option for recognised experts after a long and highly successful career in industry or academia. Fast stream entrants will have some influence over the work they do but they cannot expect to work in the same field all the time. There are strong links between the government and relevant university research departments. Government research will not duplicate what happens elsewhere and typically focuses on areas of politically sensitivity or where the cost would make it prohibitive for industry. Although many jobs are London based, there are opportunities across the UK. EU secondments may also be available for short periods.
If you’re interested in the science and engineering programme, you might also want to consider opportunities in other government funded organisations such as the Research Councils, National Physics Laboratory, Natural History Museum (including lab based opportunities), the Met Office and the Health & Safety Executive where there are further opportunities for direct entry.