Humanities & Social Sciences placements

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences' students share their placement and year abroad experiences.

Posts By: ar865

Broad not Deep

📥  Social & Policy Sciences, Uncategorized

Since starting work in the Sustainable Futures Research Team at the Welsh Government I have been involved in a vast range of projects and topic areas. The team covers housing, culture, and environment research – some pretty meaty topics for just four people! Due to the diverse nature of our work I have had to adapt quickly to get a grasp of these policy areas. One of the hardest challenges was getting my head around policy on planning consenting regimes for infrastructure projects – a topic that I still don’t really understand.

There are several challenges that we face in the Sustainable Futures Team due to the varying nature of our work. In order to describe these, I’ll briefly explain the beginning of the research process and the role social researchers have in policy making. Just to note, our role in the development of policy is just one stage in a very extensive complicated process. This publication by the British Ecological Society gives a nice clear introduction to policy in the UK, describing the different stages of the process (

When producing or changing policy, policy makers have to ensure their decisions are evidence based (ideally…this may not always happen in practice). This means they need existing or new research to support their decisions. Policy colleagues get in touch with us (the researchers) when they need new research to inform a policy decision (sometimes they may be surprised by the findings). A meeting takes place between policy teams and researchers where policy discuss what they want from the research, confirming their aims and objectives.

At this point I’ve encountered challenges. If working solely in education research, although this is a broad area, researchers will most likely be able to become experts in this topic. For me, in the Sustainable Research Team, it feels as if in every scoping meeting I’ve been in, I’ve been on the back foot, trying to get my head around a new policy area and figure out the best way to carry out research.

At first I felt uncomfortable, feeling like I didn’t know enough about anything. But then, I realised that as a researcher, I don’t have to be an expert on every policy topic, that’s the job of the policy teams. As a researcher, my role is to be an expert on research methods, and finding the best ways to achieve the research outcomes. As long as I make it clear to policy colleagues that I am unfamiliar with the topic and communicate clearly with them, then everything should flow nicely.

If anything, for me as a placement student, being in a team where we cover a range of areas is ideal. I get to experience a number of different policy areas rather than working in one particular field. Some examples of the varying topics I’ve been involved with over the last 7 months are: housing supply, Brexit, single use carrier bags, household energy use, genetic modification, local regeneration, and museums’ collections.

Despite the challenging aspects of working in diverse policy areas, I think I’d much rather this style of work where I don’t know what new topic I’ll be faced with next. As one of my colleagues said to me when I started my placement “you get paid to learn”. She was so right, we get paid to learn about exciting new topics that will influence the future of Wales.


It's a desk life!

📥  Uncategorized

Halfway through placement (and I still haven't written a blog post...whoops)! Well here we go - never too late to start.

My name is Anna and I’m working in Social Research at the Welsh Government in Cardiff.

When thinking of what to write about for my first blog a few ideas have been floating around in my brain, varying from the experience of being a country lass living in a big city, to the structure of different levels of government in Wales. I'm still not entirely sure what to focus on, so we'll see where this goes.

At first I found the experience of work rather odd. The simple act of sitting inside, at a desk I struggled with. Ever since I was small I've enjoyed being outside and moving, therefore having to sit down all day was a shock to the system. At school I was always moving between my lessons and the sports pitches, then a couple of years later at uni I was always up and about for lectures and sporting activities. So the first couple of months of my placement, sitting down inside when the sun was shining outside (think my memory may have tainted the picture a bit) were quite difficult. It’s safe to say that I found the adjustment from the student life to the desk life challenging. I decided that I never wanted another desk job and that I was going to be some sort of active/outdoorsy instructor instead.

I have titled this blog post “it’s a desk life”. This is based upon the phrase “it’s a dog’s life”. The meaning of this phrase has changed over recent years. In the past dogs’ lives were unpleasant; they slept outside and lived off scraps. In present times, dogs’ lives are very leisurely; they are pampered, groomed and come and go as they please. The transformation in the meaning of this phrase is somewhat representative of my experience of the desk life at the Welsh Government.

At first, I found it uncomfortable and unpleasant, however now I’m very happy with it – I’m even considering abandoning my prospects as an outdoors instructor to pursue a career in a desk based occupation, quite the turnaround. I feel very comfortable sat at my desk cracking on with tasks and projects.

The key to this change was not external like it was for dogs, my improved circumstances have been solely due to internal factors. I have adjusted to the new way of life and have grown used to it – I am very content with the desk life.

The original phrase originated in the 1600s when dogs’ lives were at their worst, so if I were a dog I’d say I’d be living in the late 20th century. I get to sleep inside and get fed everyday, but I haven’t made it up onto the sofa or bed. But I think that’s pretty good going.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog post, it’s just a little insight into one of the several challenges I’ve faced so far this year. I’m sure there will be many more but as a result I’ll be so much better equipped for all that life throws at me.