Work in science policy usually operates in one of two principal ways:
1) Developing government policy around how scientific research is funded and conducted (communicating policy to scientists)
2) Or, as is often the case with roles in charities and think tanks, ensuring that government policies best respond to scientific issues (e.g. climate change) and best represent the needs of particular groups, such as those living with certain diseases (communicating science to policy makers)
For example, many government officials do not have scientific expertise, so they hire expert advisors to provide balanced scientific information in order to make an informed vote. Many government agencies use analysts to turn policy into rules and regulations that then must be communicated and applied.
Typical employers include scientific professional bodies and organisations (e.g. Royal Society, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry), think tanks, charities, non-governmental organisations and public sector organisations like the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). Universities may also employ science policy professionals as a link between the university and government funding agencies. Depending on the type of job and the employer, workload may focus on a specific area (e.g. energy, health), or cover a broader remit across a wider range of scientific areas an issues.
Working in science policy often demands getting to grips with scientific research and ideas in a short space of time and being able to speak clearly and authoritatively on scientific matters; as a result a postgraduate research degree can often carry weight and, with the right kind of experience, put you in a good position for roles in this area.
Key skills for working in science policy include:
- Ability to communicate scientific ideas clearly to non-expert audiences (with experience in doing this)
- Negotiation and professional communication skills
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Tact and diplomacy
- Critical evaluation
- Ability to get to grips with research and scientific ideas quickly
Find out more about science policy
Science policy case study