Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Week 10 at POST: making my Dad proud and external review preparation

After an extremely sunny weekend visiting my favourite bakery Cookies and Scream and having a go at my first cycling time trial I arrived in on Monday and made the last few changes to my note that had come out of the internal review. I also (maybe a bit late?) wrote my summary for the website: which you can read here. Parliament have a group called ParliAble which aims to increase awareness and appreciation of disability issues on the Parliamentary estate. I attended one of their British Sign Language workshops at lunchtime which was great! I now feel I could at least begin a conversation using BSL, although I'm not sure how fast the conversation would flow...

Today I did some sorting out: adding my contacts to the POST database and making sure the correct files were loaded into the right places on the shared drive. I also looked at who I had spoken to and thought about who best to send my note to for external review. It's important that any business who is mentioned explicitly can view the note before it goes out, and also that people from government and the third sector are also involved.

This morning I had to spend some time editing a paper relating to my PhD - it felt like looking back at a different world. I think it's going to take some time to adjust back from Big Data to Chemistry when I go back! By the afternoon, Lydia had had a chance to look over the changes I'd made after the external review and we spent the afternoon discussing the details around wording, and the effect of some of the re-structuring.

The evening was fun - my Dad used to run for Thames Hare and Hounds running club, and realised a few weeks ago that while I'm here I live near where they train and so forwarded me some of their newsletters. They were organising an event called the Parkland relays - an opportunity for teams of 3 women or 4 men from local clubs to compete over 5k laps. I was welcomed as a member of a THH team, and we went on to win the women's race - I also came 10th out of the 101 women! They also have a spare number for the BUPA London 10k this weekend, so that's my Sunday sorted! I was really pleased, as I managed to speak to someone who was captain of the club when my Dad was there, and winning under my Dad's 'colours' felt pretty good. The photo below shows the winning team and one of my Dad's old running partners.

I spent today making the changes Lydia and I had discussed yesterday before heading off early to give blood.

Back with another iteration this morning, I made what I hoped to be the last changes before sending it off the external review. I drafted all the e-mails to reviewers and the board, as most of them needed to be individually personalised. After one final check over the changes with Lydia, I sent off the note to external review! Big sighs of relief all round and a perfect start to the bank holiday weekend.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Week 9 at POST - a familiar Lord and some internal reviews

Week 9

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I was aiming to get my note ready to send out for internal review by the end of today. After discussion with Lydia and some last minute re-structuring I made it! After smug-ly sending it off before 5:30 I raced to the train and back home to my bike to celebrate with some laps of Richmond park in the sunshine. Which rapidly disappeared and was replaced by torrential rain, leaving me soaked and freezing! On the plus side, after the downpour this beauty appeared:

It was on Tuesday morning that I realised how many things I'd left "until after I've sent my note off". I spent the morning writing up interview notes and events I've attended in the last few weeks.

My Dad met me in the afternoon after he'd had a meeting in London and we had coffee in the Jubilee cafe just off Westminster Hall: it was good to relax and I think both of us needed the break! We'd had a pretty hectic weekend at my cousin's wedding. Let's just say I'm going to buy my sister a handbag big enough for her to fit her car keys in...
After our coffee, we decided to go and see if we could get in to watch a debate in one of the houses. After consulting the Parliamentary timetable (and the fact you don't have to sit behind a glass screen) we went for the House of Lords. It was easy to get into the strangers gallery - we just went to the chamber and filled in a form with our names and addresses before being given a ticket. It was interesting to see the difference between the every day working of the Lords and Prime Minister's Questions. On the one hand the Lords seemed far more civilised, but that's only until someone wants to speak... Because there is no speaker to order proceedings in the same way, they speak until everyone else gives up and that dictates who goes next! We also played a bit of "Lords spotting" - I got Alan Sugar and Dad spotted some I'd never heard of...

After dropping Dad off at the secret parliament entrance to Westminster tube station I decided to go back to the Lords, but this time to the Moses room to a debate on scientific infrastructure: Lord Krebs was reporting back from the Science and Technology Committee. As he is the principal of the college I went to at Oxford (Jesus), and it was a topic that I thought might be interesting I went along. I had to be guided by a (very nice) policeman because I didn't know where to go. The Moses room is quite small and I'm almost certain he spotted me on my arrival but couldn't work out where from! Maybe the Jesus College alumni team might be interested in me working for POST... (Lord Krebs sits on the POST board).

Once I'd listened for about an hour, I went back to POST to collect my things and then headed to the British Library to see their Beautiful Science exhibition. This was great - some really inventive ways of presenting scientific results: not just recent ones but also going back into history. I also went to their permanent exhibition and saw some really interesting pieces.

Despite a lightning strike delaying my train home, today was a pretty good day!

I had my last interview today, with someone working on the "Building Information Modelling" taskforce at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. This was incredibly interesting, but I'm going to struggle to fit it into my note! As part of the big data theme at POST there is going to be a conclusion note - so I think this may fit well in there instead. After the interview we had another one of our big data team catch ups, to see what progress has been made with the other notes and identify any areas of overlap.

I then spent the afternoon writing up my interview notes and following up on points that had come out of it.
My evening was spent in Ham Lake - my first open water session of the year! Glorious sunshine combined with my new neoprene hat and socks meant that the temperature was tolerable and I had a great time.

Internal Review day!
This morning I had the internal review for my note and it was less scary than I thought it might be! In general the feedback was good, with most of the comments being about re-ordering rather than re-writing, which was nice. It was interesting to hear different perspectives and a bit odd realising that in just 2 months I've picked up some jargon...
So the internal review process comprises of one advisor from each of the 4 areas (Energy and Environment, Social, Physical and Biological) and for me one of the other fellows, Daniel, who is working on a Big Data note. Each of them read and make comments to the note beforehand which then bring along. Apart from the reading out loud, it actually works quite a lot like a ClimateSnack meeting! (see previous post)

After my review, I started to make some changes before going along to Daniel's internal review. Again, similar to ClimateSnack as it became my turn to give feedback. Sometimes this experience is just as useful as receiving it.

I began to make some of the structural changes before I headed to the gym, but it was a pretty exhausting day being in reviews...

Today I spent looking out at the gorgeous weather implementing the recommended changes to my note. You can tell the advisors have been doing this for a while: one is especially good at spotting where you can take words out to save space.

I also decided this morning that it was about time I started making the most of being in London, and booked tickets to see Wicked tonight and to try out track cycling at the Olympic Velodrome on 2nd June - nothing like a bit of spontaneity!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Weeks 7 and 8 at POST- busy, busy, busy...

Most of the last two weeks has been drafting my POSTnote, interspersed with my last few interviews and some events. Combined with fighting off a cold, it's been pretty hectic, but I've sent my note off to internal review now, so I can finally write up what I've been doing!

Week 7
I spent most of this week putting the initial draft together and reading about the new EU data protection regulation. I went up to York for a big data masterclass with the intention to interview the speaker after the event, but he became unavailable at the last minute. Luckily the talk was useful, and gave me some good case studies. I also managed to meet my sister for lunch and filled the gap when the interview would have been with coffee with a friend, so it wasn't all bad!

It also appears big data is seeping into everyone else's consciousness too, as one of my friends posted a link about someone trying to avoid companies finding out about her pregnancy. An interesting article and illustrates a lot of what I have discovered during my time here.

When a new group of fellows starts, POST hold meetings where each fellow gets the chance to speak for 5 minutes on the topic of their note and what they will be covering, with 5 minutes afterwards for questions if people have them. These are good for pointing out areas that might have been overlooked, or duplicated. With only 4 pages, the last thing you need is to duplicate information written in someone else's note! Because of this, I have spent a while working out the best way to link the "Big Data in Social Media" note with mine.

Week 7 finished with a trip to the city (my first) with an interview in the Willis building followed by a late finish discussing my first draft with Lydia.

Week 8
Another bank holiday Monday spent on my bicycle was a great start to the week.

I went to an event at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council on the topic of big data in business. This was a great opportunity to hear from the research councils about what they are offering businesses to help them use their own data or access research data. I spent most of the breaks re-working the comments Lydia and I had discussed into my draft.

My day of re-drafting was broken up with an opportunity to go to Prime Minister's Question time - this was a great experience! The commons is much smaller than it seems on television, so the atmosphere can get quite rowdy and it seems like a school teacher calming the student down when the speaker has to get involved. If you want to go, you just need to write to your MP for tickets, but they are usually booked months in advance.
In the afternoon, Lydia and I had a really useful interview with a data protection lawyer, hearing his perspective on businesses' use of personal data.

I went to a Westminster e-forum on the topic of data protection in the UK and EU - I learnt a lot about the new EU regulation that has been proposed and views from businesses and regulators on the effects of it coming into force. I then spent the afternoon trying to re-shuffle the structure of my note to introduce all the information on data protection that I had learnt about over the past few days.

On Thursday evenings, the fellows tend to head for the sports and social bar in the palace of Westminster. With training, I never seem to end up there, but today I made my first trip! I went from this to a "Women in the Media" event organised by Jesus College celebrating the introduction of women into the college 40 years ago. It was interesting to hear views on how things have changed (or not!) in the industry over the that time, as science in the media is a possible future option for me...

Today I finally had my tour of Parliament! It was really informative: I learnt so much about the history that I didn't know before. I would encourage people to go on one: you just need to contact your MP and they can book you on to a free tour. We then had our second session of fellows talks and then I spent the rest of the day working on my draft, getting it into a reasonable state ready to send to internal review at the end of Monday.