NAME: Joseph Nolan
CURRENT TITLE: Junior Policy Officer at the European Polar Board (EPB)
AREA OF EXPERTISE: European polar research; science policy
YEARS OF EXPERIENCE: ~1.5 years of experience spread out over the 5 or so while completing my degrees.
EDUCATION: BSc (Hons) Geography, Newcastle University, United Kingdom (UK); MSc Polar and Alpine Change, University of Sheffield, UK
What’s your job like?
The European Polar Board is an organisation of the directors and managers of major European polar research programmes. We work to coordinate, promote and advance European polar research, particularly through efforts to foster collaboration and share infrastructures. Furthermore, thanks to its members, the EPB is the strong and independent voice of European polar research, offering advice on polar issues to policymakers at national and European levels. The EPB also works to represent European polar research internationally. My job is essentially to support these activities in a variety of ways, and involves a lot of liaison with other organisations, programmes and projects.
My job includes science-related work on reports, policy and coordination, administration and communications. While it would be great to only work on the interesting science stuff, I am definitely developing new and useful skills all the time, so I don’t mind.
The EPB is currently working to complete internal restructuring resulting from its separation from the European Science Foundation to become its own independent entity. Thus, a lot of my time is spent on this at the moment.
The EPB Secretariat is based in The Hague, hosted by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). We share an office with the NWO Earth and Life Science department. The Secretariat is very small, consisting only of the Executive Secretary, Renuka Badhe, and myself. I, therefore, have relatively large responsibilities, particularly as Renuka is often travelling for conferences and meetings. I am gaining a lot of valuable experience in a relatively short space of time.
What’s a typical day like?
A typical day is usually spent in the office, working on reports, administrative tasks or communications. From time to time there is travel to meetings or conferences.
I also spend some time each day wishing I spoke Dutch.
What I enjoy most about my job is continuing to work in a field which I have always found fascinating, albeit outside of an academic context. I was looking for a position that allowed me to stay in touch with the science, allowing me to use my knowledge and expertise in a new way, and working at the EPB definitely fits the bill.
I also enjoy opportunities to meet and work with experienced and well-respected people in the world of polar science at the same time as early career people, like myself.
Continuously learning new and diverse skills can be challenging, but rewarding. I also spend a lot of time working alone, which has its own challenges.
What’s your advice to students?
- Follow your interests, not just what you think will most likely lead to a job.
- Don’t worry if academia or research isn’t for you – there are plenty of other jobs out there that allow you to keep working in science.
- Take any opportunity you can to gain relevant experience and build up your curriculum vitae (CV).
- Keep your search for opportunities as broad as possible. Don’t be afraid of moving to new places or working slightly outside your current expertise.
- Don’t compare yourself and your career to others. You will find your own way and achieve your own aims.