WHAT DO YOU DO?
I work for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) – which is a UK Government Department. I lead a team of around 20 people called the ‘Evidence into Action’ team. The team sits within the Research and Evidence Division. The aim of the team is to increase the use of research evidence to inform decision making for development. The team works on two strands:
1. We support DFID itself to get better at using evidence. We do this by providing evidence synthesis products, improving research communication internally and providing training and guidance on using evidence.
2. We support policy makers in developing countries to get better at using evidence. We do this by funding a range of programmes which synthesise and communicate research evidence – and programmes which work directly with policy makers to increase their capacity to find, appraise and use research evidence.
My work involves quite a lot of people management – I directly line-manage four people and each of them manages between 3 and 5 people so I spend quite a bit of time working with each of them on how to best manage the team to make sure everyone is happy and productive. I am also responsible for the team budget so have to make sure I am on top of budgets and forecasts and spending profiles. I spend quite a bit of my time attending meetings with senior management and/or other team leaders across the division. And finally I do try to spend some time getting involved in actual ‘work’ (so that I don’t forget how to actually do stuff!). So for example, in recent months I have been leading on discussions with a number of funders about providing funds to a programme called the Think Tank Initiative and I have also been writing a literature review on evidence in international development.
HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?
Read Kirsty’s career history and stay updated on research & development on her blog: Kirsty Evidence.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?
On getting into development work – my advice would be not to start out by focusing on ‘development’. I think it is usually better to get experience and/or qualifications in a subject area – education, management, public policy or whatever – and then bring that expertise into the development realm. There is a risk that if you dive straight into development that you won’t have that much real expertise to draw upon.
On doing research – my advice, if you want to have a career in research, is that like it or not, your reputation will be built on your publications – so if you want to be successful, make sure you do your PhD with a supervisor who publishes well. It almost never happens that a PhD student publishes well if their supervisor does not.
On writing a blog – I didn’t really set out to write a blog – it just kind of happened because I kept getting annoyed with things I heard people say or stuff I read and so I wanted to put down my perspective on those issues. I find that writing stuff down is the best way to figure out what I actually think!