Secondments Case Studies

One great way of deciding whether a secondment might be right for you is to see how other statisticians have found their experiences. We would like to showcase a selection of case studies on this page to help you with this decision. If you have recently been on a secondment and would like to share your experiences, please contact us to tell us about it.

vol placement

Case Study

Louisa McCutcheon a Statistician from the Department of Health

I was attracted to a secondment at Full Fact by the unique opportunity to see how politicians and the media use Government data and to learn how to communicate statistics in new and engaging ways. The three months I spent there offered me this and so much more.

I got involved in lots of Full Fact’s day-to- day work; monitoring the press and social media to see what claims were being made and helping research the data behind these claims. I joined the team in Broadcasting House to live-factcheck the BBC’s flagship political programme, Question Time, and attended a Public Administration Select Committee session to hear evidence about the Government’s progress on providing open data.

My main project was researching and writing a  good practice guide for members of the GSS, explaining how we can improve and standardise the way we publish data in spreadsheets to make it easier for ad hoc users to find and reuse the data they need. This was a great opportunity to see what statisticians are doing across Government, and to speak to journalists about how they find our data, what they do with it and how we could do it better.

Three years later, I still feel my secondment to Full Fact is one of the best development opportunities I’ve had. Whilst there, I improved my writing style and learnt how to present data in simple but interesting and engaging ways. It has since given me confidence to challenge policy, press and senior colleagues on the appropriate use and presentation of statistics and it has broadened my understanding of how Think Tanks and researcher use data to inform policy development. 

Louisa McCutcheon

Daniel Hawksworth is on loan to Scottish Government from the Department for Transport

I joined the Civil Service in 2012 – my first two statistician postings were with the Department for Transport in Westminster. Both of these roles were focussed on the production of statistics, and neither had a great deal of policy engagement. After two years in the DfT I thought that it was high-time that I spread my wings and fly the nest.

Towards the end of my second posting, I signed up for the daily digests from Civil Service Jobs for any job adverts tagged as Statistical / Analytical. These emails trickled in, and applications opened and closed, without any of the advertised postings grabbing my attention. A ‘Scottish Government’ statistics advert then caught my eye and I decided that it would be good to escape the hustle, bustle and pollution of London for a while.

I wasn’t able to apply for the job advert directly (as a Fast Streamer), but I got in touch with the HoP in Scottish Government and explained my situation. Following the recruitment round, there were still a couple of unfilled vacancies – I managed to secure a loan into one of these empty posts.

My loan posting to the Scottish Government offered me the chance to tick some previously empty skills boxes. The post, within Health statistics, was focussed on the communication and dissemination of statistics, rather than on their production – in fact the overwhelming majority of statistics that I referred to during this role were produced by a division of NHS Scotland.

The posting involved producing briefings and submissions to the First Minister, the Cabinet Secretary and other ministers. My role was integrated into a policy division, and I had extensive day-to-day contact with policy customers. This is something that I had not experienced during my time in London. I feel that levels of integration and policy contact are generally higher within the Scottish Government – because the departments are not compartmentalised in the same way as the different department buildings in Whitehall.

My role had a large remit – covering different health topic areas, including Cancer, Psychological Treatments and A&E. I was the lead Scottish Government analyst for many of these areas, which made me the go-to contact for any policy or ministerial queries. The responsibility of this expertise was also an experience that I had not had during my previous postings.

I now feel much better prepared for future postings, and these experiences gained whilst on loan have given me a unique edge when the time comes to apply for promotion.

Summary: Go for it!

Daniel Hawksworth

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