In fall of 2018 Defra (UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs) advertised for a Senior Policy Fellow – Marine to work with Prof Ian Boyd (Chief Scientific Advisor) and his team to develop a systems approach to thinking about marine evidence. I applied for the position and have been awarded the fellowship! For two days per week I’ll be seconded into Defra, though I will still be based here at the University of Plymouth. The systems research programme is new and innovative and aims to drive the development and use of quality science to shape key Defra policies and the fellowship is both prestigious and influential. This is a particularly exciting time to be involved as the work that we will be doing will help to shape the UK’s environmental management after we leave the EU.
My fellowship, therefore, is all about increasing our capacity to make good decisions about how we manage the environment. I’ll be working with Defra colleagues but also further developing partnerships outside the civil service with the goal of increasing the scientific evidence base available for decision making. There is a lot of great science happening in the UK that just doesn’t get into the decision making process, but there are also research gaps that we need to fill to make good decisions. I will work to facilitate the transfer of science into evidence for decision making and also to identify research gaps along with opportunities to fill these gaps. I will learn loads, too, as I gain further experience in marine fisheries, pollution, and invasive species, in addition to my expertise in biodiversity science and policy.
I’m particularly interested in getting to better understand the internal workings of the civil service. I’ve worked closely with civil servants and policy makers for 10 years on evidence provision, but always from the academic side, rather than from the policy side. I am looking forward to learning more about how the civil service works, what happens to science as it becomes evidence, how the Defra prioritises its work, and how different bits of government join up.
I am really excited about the amazing high-level opportunity to be embedded in Defra and can’t wait to get started!
Abigail, Plankton and Policy
Brilliant news Abi. You know much already but be prepared to work with (other) civil servants whose main aim (seemed to me during the MCZ process) is to keep scientists and others ‘on message’ and to ‘control them’. Look out for ‘Terms of Reference’ that will constrain you within their perceived and often misguided goals. Try to emphasise support needed for developing good science ‘touchstones’.
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