Maya Singer Hobbs, a PhD student in the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath, has recently completed a three month placement with the Open Innovation Team (OIT) in the Cabinet Office.

The OIT works to facilitate the communication between policymakers in Whitehall with experts in the field from academia and elsewhere. During her time with the OIT, Maya worked on a range of projects including; producing scoping documents for both the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; and contributing to work on innovation within the Civil Service for internal Cabinet Office teams, which involved organising a workshop for senior officials.

Maya also spent the majority of her placement working with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) - a newly created team specifically tasked with advising government on how best to exploit the many potential benefits of “data-driven technology”, whilst identifying and mitigating the risks.

On her placement, Maya adds:

"As a PhD student in the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies, I spend most of my time in a laboratory, so this placement gave me a really valuable opportunity to develop skills I wouldn’t otherwise have.

I have been passionate about getting scientists engaged with policy since I started my PhD, which led me and a colleague to set up Bath Science in Policy, a group for postgraduate students to think about and engage with policymaking. Through this group I got to know the team at the IPR, which led to me doing a short, part-time placement with them in the summer of 2018. It was through that placement that the opportunity to join the OIT arose.

Even in the few weeks that I’ve been back in Bath I’ve noticed some of the skills I developed at the Cabinet Office coming to the fore. I’ve adopted the use of slide packs as a concise way of disseminating information. The minimalist and direct way of communicating, particularly via email, means there’s less scope for misunderstanding, and the juggling of many projects has been helpful when there are multiple experiments on the go. Probably most useful to my PhD will be the honing of my writing skills, particularly writing clearly for a well-informed but non-specialist audience.

I am incredibly grateful to the IPR for the opportunity to take this internship and placement, and their support throughout."