27 August 2019

Being a research intern: A personal perspective

Pete Carlyon is studying International Development with Economics BSc at the University of Bath. He is on the Government Social Research student placement scheme, which runs every year and involves 12 government departments.


How did you become an intern at the College of Policing?

I came to be an intern at the College by hearing about the Government Economic Social Research (GSR) placement schemes through a friend. You apply for GESR placements by submitting one application form that covers all of the government departments, which you then ranked in order in of preference. I first heard about the College when completing this form and after reading up about the College, and the work they do, I decided to rank it first on my application. The following week, I'd got an interview, and the week after the interview I was told I'd got the job! 

What projects have you been involved in and what was your role in them?

Over the course of the year I've been involved in a really broad range of projects. As an intern, I contribute to elements of various projects being carried out by the rest of the team. For example, I analysed survey responses using specialist software and presented the findings to senior police leaders at a National Police Chiefs' Council BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) Women within Policing Working Group meeting. As a further part of this work, I designed an online survey for a national event (hosted by the College and the Working Group for BAME women within policing) and co-facilitated a focus group exploring how BAME women experience working in the police service. I carried out quantitative analysis on a number of projects including one looking at the new data on police use of force. This involved me coding all of the data submitted by each force about their officers' use of force and then formatting each one to fit a standardised framework. I worked on approximately twenty datasets over the course of 3 months; before sending them on to Exeter University for further analysis. This project was by far, the largest one that I worked on during my internship and it required me to learn a number of new skills in order to do it properly. 

As well as doing quantitative analysis, I've also been involved in several more qualitative research projects. For example, I worked with the Futures team to help to create six 'trend cards' which detailed socio-demographic shifts and included a wide range of issues (such as population growth, age and gender imbalances, migration patterns, income inequality, personal transport, autonomous vehicles,  risks of pandemics, and personalised medicine etc.) predicted to occur in the UK over the next 10 years. We then ran a workshop with Hampshire Constabulary, where we presented the trend cards and facilitated group discussions about how Hampshire could be affected by the socio-demographic changes. Another large-scale project I worked on was the evaluation of the Fast Track Scheme. I analysed all of the survey responses from the most recent cohort of participants by coding their responses and summarising the findings in a report.   

What have you enjoyed most about working at the College?

I've just enjoyed 'getting on with it', working as part of a team on lots of interesting projects. I had a pretty limited knowledge of policing when I came into the College; so it's been really interesting to get some insight into policing and the challenges being faced by the police service. I have felt that the College has given me a fair amount of freedom to set the direction for the sort of projects I wanted to work on; so I've been able to get involved in work that best suits my interests. 

What will you be able to use from your time at the College to help you complete your studies?

A big thing I'll take back to undergraduate study will just be the discipline of waking up early and working solidly throughout the day. Not having worked a full-time, office-based job before, working here has definitely made me a lot more organised and structured in my working; which will be really useful going into final year. I've also become a lot more familiar with using analytical software such as Excel and SPSS.  I'm currently learning to use NVivo, all of these skills will come in handy for my final year modules and dissertation. I'll also be able to apply several of the more specific research skills I've learned over the year to my dissertation. 

What are your 3 top tips for interns taking up posts working with the police?

If I had to give three tips to interns working with the police, they'd be…

  • Go on a ride-along – very easy to organise and gives a great insight into what policing is actually like for those on the ground.
  • Make use of all the available research on sites like What Works – the Crime Reduction Toolkit is useful for clarifying the consensus on various crime reduction interventions.
  • Just try to go to as many meetings with police officers/staff as possible. The ones I went to were always really insightful and would often bring up issues that I hadn't considered beforehand.  

 

The Government Economic and Social Research (GESR) Team run a 12-month sandwich student scheme each year for undergraduate students studying a social science related degree with a substantial social research methods component. To be eligible, applicants must be in their penultimate year of a social science related undergraduate degree, and must be on course for a 2:1 or a first-class honours degree. To find out more about the range of roles and departments available, please follow the link below:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-apply-for-a-government-social-research-sandwich-student-placement