SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Profile: A career in Science Policy

Sanger Institute wellcome trustSarion Bowers

Masters in Science and Technology Policy, 2013-2014

Policy Advisor at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

What made you choose to study a Masters SPRU?

I wanted to do a Masters because I was looking to change career. I was doing a post-doc in the US but I wanted to get into science policy. I choose SPRU because it has the best reputation for science policy and the Masters in Science and Technology Policy was the course the closest aligned to what I wanted to do, combining science policy with innovation.

What were the most important things you learnt? 

I gained a much better understanding of the role that science plays in society. Before the course I had a very science-based and linear view that science always leads to new technologies.. The course helped me to understand betterthe impact of science and the need for the governance of science. This has been really important for the job I am doing as engaging with policy makers I am able to understand their standpoint, the science, and the imperative to fulfill societal needs.  The course gave me a rounded understanding of science policy and I also learnt new things via  courses in Economics and Intellectual Property which have been very useful.

What did you most enjoy about studying at SPRU?

The course really challenged me as it took me away from my preconceived notions of science. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to engage with faculty, my conversations with them on any given issue were always very rewarding. I also found the Science, Institutions and Power module with Professors James Wilsdon and Erik Millstone one of the most interesting. As all the students on the course come from such different backgrounds I learnt how to appreciate different points of view. This is one of the best features of the course.   

What is your current role, and where do you see yourself going?

 Before doing my Masters I was dreaming of a job working for say, the Wellcome Trust, working on genomics. And that is exactly what I am doing. I think my job is probably different from other science policy roles as I am responsible for creating the Institute’s research policies, and ensuring that they comply with legislation and fit with our values  such as on open access. My role also has an external-facing component as we are trying to engage at a national policy level – something the Institute has never done before. Genomics is becoming a big technology, which is being integrated in to the NHS so the Institute is engaging with government and patient advocacy groups and working on advocacy.[SB1]  In the future, I hope we might be able to build a whole policy team here!

How did the Masters course help you into your chosen career path?

The fact that the course covered a variety of topics has been really helpful, learning about economics, intellectual property and network analysis has been very useful to me in my current role. Overall the course enabled me to better understand what is required of science policy, where it fits with government, and how science  and government interact as well as interacting with the public. It really helped me in my interview to be able to talk about these things.

What advice would you give to others considering this course?

For students already on the course this year, my advice is to engage with faculty. Go and talk to the staff, they know so much. The most interesting discussions I had at SPRU were when I met and talked to faculty.

For students considering taking this course, I would say that as this course is the oldest, there is a wealth of experience at SPRU that you probably don’t get on other courses. The Masters has certainly worked for me.