In 2014 I undertook a three-month internship at the Social Science Section at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST). POST is Parliament's in-house source of independent, balanced and accessible analysis of public policy issues related to science and technology. My placement involved researching and contributing to a parliamentary briefing note (also known as a 'POSTnote'), on the topic of alternative currencies.
This meant carrying out in-depth reviews of up-to-date academic literature on community and crypto-currencies, and conducting interviews with regulators, parliamentarians, academics and industry or civil society group representatives who had an interest in the link between currency innovation and policymaking.
Following the publication of the POSTnote there was increased parliamentary and government interest in cryptocurrencies, with HM Treasury announcing a consultation into Bitcoin, a topic covered extensively in the note. The POSTnote was cited in professional publications issued by the Houses of Parliament, and during the internship I was also contacted directly by MPs. The POSTnote I worked on was used by The Treasury’s Digital Currencies team to gather Bitcoin evidence from the participating researchers.
The insights I gained into the workings of parliament through the placement were invaluable, and the experience of putting together a briefing (and carrying out expert interviews) in a short space of time has certainly helped frame subsequent research projects and workshops I have organised. In addition, the contacts I made with some of those experts led to further collaborations and ‘side projects’ working with public education networks and artists on the topics of money, currency and finance.
Studying for a PhD in Social Anthropology has led me into an academic career, which I love. After working as a visiting lecturer towards the end of my PhD studies, I have recently been appointed to an academic post. Perhaps equally, if not more significantly, having the opportunity to study something in so much depth for several years has made many more interesting collaborations possible - including public education networks, documentary makers, and artists exploring offshore finance.