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John Oliver

08 September 2021, 4:09 UTC Share

Opening doors I never knew existed!

Reflections on an Academic Fellowship with the Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology (POST).

My Academic Fellowship with POST provided a unique opportunity to work with a range of teams and committees within the UK Parliament.

Whilst much of the role description focused on writing briefings for parliamentarians, assisting with select committee inquiries or carrying out research – my own experience was very different. So, my advice would be to not limit your aspirations and thinking about what a fellowship entails.

Having made it through the first Open Call Application stage, I was invited to produce a more detailed application which also involved a helpful telephone call with one of the staff to discuss my application in more detail. It is worth noting that at every stage of the recruitment process, the application forms and FAQs were very clear.

Why did I apply for an Academic Fellowship?

My background as an academic-consultant involves producing research that has an impact on business performance and policy. As such, my motivation for the fellowship was:

  • to gain an understanding and experience of working life at the House of Commons;
  • to develop new working relationships and grow my professional network;
  • to develop new research impact opportunities with parliamentary stakeholders for my research.

It became obvious very quickly that my goals were not only being met, but were being surpassed the more I became embedded into UK Parliament and its activities.

An engaged and friendly working environment

One aspect of the fellowship that did take me by surprise was how engaged and friendly every member of staff was with me and my project. Everyone I met provided me with time and showed a genuine interest in what I was doing. The POST Fellowships are a way for UK Parliament to ‘open its doors’ to a range of people from outside its normal sphere of influence in order to draw on their expertise and think about new ways of working. Importantly, this knowledge exchange process has been mutually beneficial and I have learned a lot from using my knowledge and expertise in a working environment significantly different to what I’m used to!

Opening all those doors!

My fellowship ‘centred’ on developing a co-created scenario plan with the Parliamentary Library Services team that envisioned a future library service provision that is fit for purpose in the long-term. Given that the Ł6bn restoration and renewal programme for the Palace of Westminster would result in significant challenges for parliamentarians and house staff, my original proposal provided a timely opportunity to contribute to the Library Service team’s strategic deliberations on its future size, shape and provision.

I deliberately used the term ‘centred’ because the fellowship gives you access to a range of other areas and activities that at the start of the process I couldn’t even have imagined. In particular, I was able to disseminate a broad range of research findings to various committees and individuals that previously I would not have been aware of nor had access to. POST also send around details of training courses and events that would specifically help fellows to develop new knowledge and skills, from producing infographics to the detailed workings of inquiries and how to track research impact.

Looking ahead

I have no doubt that the contacts and relationships that I have made in UK Parliament will form an important part of my professional network for some time. I have also been asked to join a new parliamentary committee and co-publish an academic paper with my POST supervisors on the project. Further ahead, I’m hoping that these activities will develop significant impact opportunities based on my scenario planning research. So, if you are thinking of applying for a POST Fellowship – my advice would be to have a clear project in mind and submit an application. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

John Oliver is a Professor in Strategic Media Management at Bournemouth University . He researches the impact of crisis events on the levels of innovation and corporate financial performance in organisations. His career spans academia and the business world in the UK and Internationally. During 2021 John undertook a Parliamentary Academic Fellowship with POST and the parliamentary libraries.

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