Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Learning about evidence and policy at the Scottish Government

CRFR PhD student Rebecca Black reports back from her internship at the Scottish Government 

This summer I had the fantastic opportunity to work as a PhD intern at the Scottish Government. I worked with the Children and Families Analytical Unit, there for three months - a departure from my normal role as a CRFR associate PhD student.

The internship, facilitated by the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science, was designed to provide the opportunity to work outside of my PhD topic while developing valuable experience and skills. Throughout the internship I took on a variety of projects across a range of topics: From early learning and childcare to children’s rights to Safeguarders’ in the Children’s Hearing System.

I was quickly thrown into the action with a consultation analysis. The Scottish Government recently produced guidance on Children's Rights and Children's Services Planning sections of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Part 1, section 2 and Part 3 respectively). This guidance was put out for consultation and I found analysing the responses received really interesting. I had to quickly become familiar with the core components of the guidance and the Act and enjoyed distilling the responses into feedback for the policy team[1]. I also learnt a lot during this process, which illustrated the importance of the advocating and lobbying role that institutions such as CRFR play in ensuring that all voices are heard in the government’s work.

I also had the opportunity to see how policy and analyst teams work together to ensure evidence-based policy is crafted and implemented. The increased provision of early learning and childcare was one such policy initiative that I was involved in, producing two preliminary reviews of evidence for the policy team. This involved consolidating vast amounts of research to create a report that succinctly summarised the current state of evidence. These reviews were then incorporated in to briefing packs that were sent to the Ministers and policy teams to aid their decision-making.

One of the key highlights of my time however was working on the development and tendering of a piece of research. It was a novel experience and provided insight in to how research bids are put together and the selection process. It was great to see how analysts and policy-makers collaborate to ensure quality research is conducted and valuable outputs are produced. Having spent quite a while in the academic environment, being part of this process gave me real insight into a different facet of research and the practical processes surrounding this.

The internship, while short in duration, provided me with a wealth of experiences and developed a range of transferable skills (e.g. writing succinctly, writing in lay terms and working with different expectations). The experience has also offered me plenty of ideas on how I can improve my own PhD study’s relevance to policy, hopefully widening its future dissemination and expanding engagement with policy makers.

[1] The analytical report has now been published and available to view online at:

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