And suddenly, it’s all over! After three months working at POST, I’m now sat back in the Exeter office and back to PhD life. I can’t believe that I finally have a POSTnote on UK Fisheries Management – I’ll admit there were points during the writing of it that I never thought I would get it finished, but I’m super excited to share it with you now!
So after the first two months of reading, researching and interviewing people for the POSTnote, January rapidly became my writing month. After all the mind maps and initial drafts, it was time to get a first full draft written in proper POSTnote format. Boy, was that hard! My interviews and reading had helped confirm my already held beliefs that UK fisheries management is by no means a simple or small topic to try and cover in four pages, especially given the future complexities of Brexit. As a fisheries scientist myself this was something I struggled with at the start of writing as for me everything seemed important and I felt it needed to be included. As the writing process went on, I realized that this a) simply wasn’t possible and b) wasn’t entirely necessary – in order for people to initially understand a topic it doesn’t mean they necessarily need to know everything single thing about it. It was my job to tell them the key points, issues and concepts in the simplest and most logical way possible.
After many drafts, the next stage in the writing process was to send it to colleagues within POST and the Commons Library for internal review. This is one of the first big checks the POSTnote goes through – do people that haven’t been working on it and don’t have much of a background (if at all) of the topic understand your POSTnote? After receiving their comments back, I ate some chocolate and Biscoff from a jar and got on with writing another few drafts. This drafting stage focused a lot on getting the structure and content right – key things for any good POSTnote.
The next stage was to then send it off for external review. This part is really important as it allowed the experts that I had interviewed to read over it and provide comments. Once I had their comments back, we then went through every comment one by one to see how we could address it and include it. Again, full of coffee and Biscoff, I set about doing a few more drafts. I really didn’t realise the extent to which every word is considered and debated during the writing, and how many times you end up re-writing a section to cut it down by a few extra words. However, this level of detail is so important to make sure that the information presented is accurate and appropriately reflects what you want to say – given you have to distill so much complexity into so few words, every word really does count! The whole process has also got me well accustomed to having a word document that is just a sea of red tracked-changes from multiple people – something I think will be handy for future PhD and science writing!
Finally the POSTnote was ready for the final stage – sign off! At this point, the POSTnote is read by the director of POST and checked again. Luckily there were just a few changes to make before we had the final version! There was a lot of high fiving and dancing at this point, followed by a few pints at Westminster’s Sports and Social Bar. However, having the final POSTnote wasn’t quite the end – I then had to finish organising a breakfast briefing!
Sponsored by the British Ecological Society, the POSTnote was officially launched at an event for invited MPs, Peers and other Parliamentary staff. I was so nervous about running this event, not only because MPs and Peers would be attending (ek!) but also because our guest list was almost double the capacity of the room! We knew that fisheries were a current topic of interest within Parliament, but the amount of people that signed up was more than we had bargained for! However, it was super exciting to have this level of interest and luckily everyone that came did end up getting a seat. Holly Lynch MP (Shadow Defra Minister for Flooding and Coastal Communities) chaired the session and we had about 13 MPs and Peers in attendance, which was great. I also invited 8 speakers from academia, industry and the third sector to speak and there was plenty of time for discussions and debate. There were some lively moments, but it was great to see so many people engaged and passionate about fisheries!
After the event, it was time to pack up my desk and head for some leaving drinks before returning to Exeter the next day. It feels a bit weird to be back and I’m struggling to remember what I was doing before I left… I’m also missing my hall pass to explore Westminster but I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work at POST at such an exciting time. If any other PhD students fancy doing one of these fellowships, I would thoroughly recommend. So, with that I’ll finish with a final big thanks to the BES for funding my fellowship, to everyone I spoke to as part of the POSTnote process and of course to POST for letting me work there! It’s a great team to work with and I’ll miss them all!
A packed room for the breakfast briefing – I may have overdone it on the catering, but at least the office was well fed afterwards!
As part of the London Lumiere festival Westminster Abbey was lit up – a lovely sight after a long day of writing!
Parliamentary archives tour – the archives are stored in the Victoria Tower and span over 12 floors! Archives tour! So many rollsGetting very excited in the archives…