This week, a couple of you have been asking about using your research to influence policy within your discipline area without, necessarily, remaining in academia. There are many ways to do this, for example: working in a relevant government department, becoming involved with a charity or campaigning organisation, taking up journalism, working for a funding council etc. However, one of the options that usually stirs the most positive response is working for a ‘Think Tank’.
There are many Think tanks engaged in research which can influence public opinion and policy across all sections of the wider ‘public sector’. Bear in mind that their main aim is to influence public policy and debate so most will be identified with a particular political standpoint. They do employ post-doctoral researchers as Research Associates or Junior Researchers, but most are very small so vacancies can be few and far between and often offered as short term contracts. Even the most prominent Think tanks are likely to employ fewer that 50 staff. If you are interested, it is important to ‘keep your ear to the ground’ to make sure you hear of anything that might be coming up in your area of specialism.
Some of the Think tanks advertise 'opportunities' on their web pages, but I would advise that you follow their social media sites and try to engage in their debates as a first step. Any opportunities to engage in networking should be seized.
TIP: most of the websites will include some staff profiles. Have a look to see what existing researchers have done beforehand to see if you need to develop any extra skills or experience.
TIP: short internships are a good way of gaining experience and developing your network. It may be possible to arrange such an internship using TECHNE funding. Investigate whether you could organise something with a related organisation.
Here are a few suggested links to help you explore the idea of working for a Think tank:
Eddie Copeland’s book ‘Working for a Think Tank’ is described as a ‘the complete guide to life in a UK think tank: How to get a job, be effective and influence policy’ so could be a good place to start: http://workingforathinktank.co.uk/