What does a policy researcher do?
A policy researcher spends their time researching and analysing data, around a number of high-profile issues. The analysis collected will help policy makers decide which policies should be implemented, and the content and structure of specific policies. Typical responsibilities include: conducting or commissioning research, analysing and interpreting data, engaging in consultations with different stakeholders, and providing advice to decision makers.
How are policy research and science connected?
Policies are implemented across a number of different sectors, and there are a number of policy researchers working in the STEM field. As a science policy researcher, you could influence policy related to space exploration, climate change, nuclear waste handling, the possibilities are endless!
Furthermore, studying physics gives you a number of transferable skills, skills which can be applied to a career as a policy researcher. For example, data analysis is key to breaking down the findings of your research, while communication is important when speaking to stakeholders.
Where do policy researchers work?
If you’ve always been fascinated by politics, you could find yourself working within the government. This type of role typically involves working on policies across a range of sectors, advising elected officials. You could work in the central government, or stay closer to home in your local government.
If government work doesn’t appeal to you, there are a number of policy researcher opportunities within think tanks and independent organisations. This role involves campaigning for the implementation of specific policies, using your research to highlight the urgency of the issue.
Finally, you could find an internal policy role within the public or the private sector. To ensure the smooth operation of an organisation, you’ll research, develop and implement internal policies.
What skills do I need to be a successful policy researcher?
To become a successful policy researcher, you’ll need strong written and verbal communication skills, to present your research to a range of audiences. You’ll also need strong research skills (both qualitative and quantitative) to deliver ethical, compelling research. In addition to this, you’ll need to be adaptable and resilient. There will be times when your research doesn’t provide you with the desired results, or your ideas aren’t implemented, but you’ll need to view this as experience and keep moving forward.
What qualifications do I need to become a policy researcher?
It’s important to have a strong understanding of parliament and politics in general. You can gain this by gaining relevant work experience, such as volunteering for a charity or political party and conducting an internship with your local council or a think tank. Ways you can enter the field include starting in an entry level position (for example, as a parliamentary assistant) and working your way up, or via a degree in the social sciences (politics, history, economics).