Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Fuse Duck and Rachel’s Day Of (health policy related) Fun

Posted by Rachel Stocker

During the final year of my PhD (2014) I was very lucky to gain funding for a three month fellowship at the Houses of Parliament, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). POST is an office of both Houses of Parliament, providing independent and balanced analysis of public policy issues that have a basis in science and technology. POST recruits around 20 fellows per year, funded by a range of funding bodies including the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the British Psychological Society (BPS), etc, to research and write a four page briefing ‘POSTnote’ on a science/technology related subject. The POSTnote itself gives a concise, unbiased overview of information, highlighting key areas for parliamentarians to consider when policy is being made. It’s (genuinely) a great opportunity to see how health policy actually works within parliament and the angle which parliamentarians take on health subjects rather than the angle researchers might take. Plus you get to wander round the parliamentary estate (as it’s called), eat in the subsidised restaurants, chill out next to Churchill… and… yeah!

I applied to work on the topic of end of life care, and as it happens, end of life care is high on the policy agenda at the moment. I wrote my POSTnote – which can be found here – between April and July 2014. Most POST fellows actually live in London for the three month period – which is fabulous – but as I’m pretty much set up here in the North East, with a husband, mortgage, and four babies cats, I couldn’t really swan off down to London. Luckily I could conduct nearly all of the required research and interviews from home, with a little bit of travel to London every so often to conduct interviews – most of the ‘big names’ live in London or nearby (sad but true) – and catch up with my supervisor at the POST offices.

Rachel and Fuse Duck at Queen's Campus, Durham University
So what does this have to do with Fuse Duck, I hear a chorus of voices ask? ……… well, Fuse Duck and I recently had a fabulous research policy day out (is this a thing?). He accompanied me to an event held at Portcullis House, run by POST, on my POSTnote. The event itself was titled ‘Palliative and End of Life Care’ and was a seminar, with several peers, MPs, researchers, and other interested individuals.

However when I say accompanied… Fuse Duck did not actually accompany me into the event. Despite having lugged him on a train from Darlington to London King’s Cross, then on two tubes across London to Westminster (he’s a bit portly and was shoved into my little suitcase on wheels), the security staff at Parliament deemed poor Fuse Duck to pose too much of a security risk in a parliamentary building. He had to sit in his bag at the security desk, next to the x-ray machine, and wait for me.

Who knew a lovingly hand knitted duck would pose such a threat to the inner workings of our parliamentary system? He didn’t seem too fussed luckily – although I could swear I saw an evil twinkle in his eye before we set off…

POST fellowships are open to those in the second or third year of their PhD (and some are open to post-docs), more information can be found here.

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