Written by Rob Byrne, AACME
This blog post reflects on my experience during a 3-month placement working as part of the Environment and Transport team within Senedd Research at the National Assembly for Wales. Senedd Research is an expert, impartial and confidential research and information service designed to meet the needs of Assembly Members and their staff.
Variety of work
Senedd Research is made up of teams of experts on policy relevant topics, who support the 60 AMs through; responding confidentially to member’s enquiries, advising committees and publishing reports, research briefings or blog posts to inform AMs and the public. As published work can have implications for policy and the reputation of the Assembly, it must be accurate, reliable and impartial.
While committee and enquiry work must be completed on specific topics, research briefings and blog posts have a degree of flexibility on topics as agreed by your team and manager. Every week I met my manager to agree work objectives and discuss opportunities from the internship. We also had a biweekly team meeting in which we put forward ideas and discussed workloads; sharing work if anyone was under pressure. Towards the end, I had the chance to host one of these meetings too.
At the beginning of the internship, I wrote a blog on a recent oil leak in Wales and updated two research briefings on planning legislation. As I took an interest in oil leaks, I was able to publish a wider research briefing on the impact of oil spills. I also published a blog on delivering new railway stations in Wales – a topic completely away from my previous knowledge. A never ending task was keeping tabs on Brexit developments relating to the environment – I contributed to Senedd Research’s Brexit Monitoring Report – Environment for January 2019 and April 2019 and completed a research briefing on the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. The sense of accomplishment when something you’ve written is published was fantastic.
As I gained more trust, I was able to respond to member’s enquiries and become involved in supporting the CCERA Committee. Enquiriescovered topics from wind turbines to motorway speed limits and involved speaking to stakeholders and member’s support staff over the phone – another useful experience in a working environment. Towards the end of my time, I was trusted to support the Committee by reviewing stakeholder evidence and highlighting key points for their inquiry on biodiversity. An absolute highlight was going on a Committee visit to a sustainable farm and discussing issues with committee members (AMs) and relevant stakeholders.
Due to the variety of work and the continually moving debate, the workplace felt very alive. Turning out work on short deadlines was an energising contrast to the PhD – with one- or two-week deadlines rather than year-long deadlines! Researching a new topic, identifying key points and writing informative work in such timescales was a very useful skill to develop. The huge variety of work was also a welcome change – I found researching new and completely different topics from day to day to be enjoyable and incredibly motivating.
Learning and development
There a myriad of learning opportunities within Senedd Research and the Assembly – if you want to take part in any training session, visit conferences or go on committee visits, you can.
During my time, I took part in training sessions focussed on devolution of powers in Wales, legislature processes and of course, Brexit – which is additionally complex when taking devolution into account. At my request, we set-up a meeting with the table office, which gave me an insight into how debates are structured in the chamber. I also attended a day-long speech writing course with the former speech writer for Alan Johnson and sat in Brexit-related seminars from Cardiff University economists. Sitting in on the weekly integrated team meeting for the CCERA Committee with legal services, clerks and translation gave me a chance to learn how different teams in the Assembly operate.
The Assembly has a real focus was on the Welsh language – all work must be bilingual, and every debate or document is translated into Welsh and English. Having grown up in Wales, I had the brilliant opportunity to reignite the dying embers of my GCSE Welsh by joining weekly Welsh classes.
Picture: Rob standing in the Senedd building above Y Siambr (debating chamber)