Guest post by Dr Pete Border, Biological Sciences and Health Adviser, POST.
Of course it does. And to prove it the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) are launching a new fellowship scheme to allow a bioethics PhD student to spend three months working in Parliament on a public policy issue with a strong bioethics component.
POST is an office funded by Parliament to provide MPs and peers with impartial advice on science-based issues. We don’t know what you will work on yet. That will be determined by the POST Board of MPs and peers that sets our work programme. So you will have to be versatile and willing to turn your hand to tackling any policy issue involving bioethics. Recent subjects we have covered or are covering include big data, illegal drugs policy, mitochondrial transfer, clinical trials or organ donation, all of which have a substantial bioethics component.
Whatever the issue you end up examining, we can guarantee that it will be interesting, topical, and controversial. Bioethics based issues always are. Much like the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, POST has a hard-earned reputation for tackling such issues in an authoritative and even handed manner. We get the information for the briefing notes that we publish by going out and talking to informed stakeholders across the whole spectrum of opinions on the topic in question. So in addition to being versatile, you will need to be impartial and have excellent people skills. Most MPs and peers don’t have a science or bioethics background so you will also need excellent writing skills to be able to produce a briefing that is concise, logical and accessible to your audience.
The new fellowship scheme is open to all PhD students who are in their penultimate or final year of study at a UK University. The only other requirement is that your PhD thesis must have a strong bioethics component. It isn’t difficult to apply. We merely ask you to fill in a form, give us a copy of your CV and write us a two page briefing on a bioethics-based issue of your choice that you think is relevant and of interest to parliamentarians. The briefing will need to explain simply and clearly the background to the issue and discuss any policy implications it raises for parliament. We will read the briefings and invite the best candidates for interviews on Friday the 17th January. You might find it useful to have a look at some of the briefings on the POST website to get an idea of the style.
We really do urge you to apply. The new Nuffield/POST bioethics fellowship is a great opportunity for a bioethicist to spend three months in Parliament expanding their horizons. You can go and talk to anyone you want to connected with your allocated topic be they senior civil servants, captains of industry, lobby groups, professional bodies or academic giants. You’ll be able to see first-hand how parliament works by attending select committee meetings, all party groups and debates. And it will be interesting and (we hope) fun.
More information about the Fellowship and how to apply is available here