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And then suddenly you are a policy maker

Blogger: Malte Steinhoff, MSc. • 17 May 2019

When you check out how TNO is promoting the traineeship on the website TNO.nl, you can find that a trainee at TNO “often will work as a researcher, project manager or consultant, but you might also be presented with the challenges involved in a commercial role.” Well, that is not the whole story yet. For my second spot as trainee I was namely working as a policy maker. I experienced this as a role that is again different from the ones that I expected to encounter when I started my trainee journey in September 2017. So, what did I do as a policy maker? And how do I think this differs from other roles at TNO?

My name is Malte, and after graduating from Social and Organizational Psychology at Leiden University in summer 2017, I knew I wanted to stay in science, but also make sure that my research has practical relevance. That objective led me to TNO. For my first spot I was working for Child Health in a scientist role, which was a good start and quite close to my study background.

After this first period of doing research in various projects, my second trainee spot brought me to TNO’s Corporate Science Office, which is part of the Corporate Strategy department. That means spending eight months right at the place where the various research projects, done by the TNO departments and their ambitions, are forged into one TNO strategy that supports all our researchers in working towards one goal. Part of the Corporate Science Office’s mission is to provide TNO with policies that make sure our scientific profile stays sharp and that we optimally disseminate the results of our scientific work. As part of this mission, I was asked to support a workgroup in writing a publication policy for TNO. The workgroup consisted of several principal scientists, which are leading in their respective scientific fields. The aim of writing the publication policy was to explicitly work out which role scientific publications play for TNO.  as an organization that is doing research on one side, but also often has more commercial projects on the other side. Questions answered in the policy are: When should we publish our research in form of a scientific publication? Are there good reasons to decide not to go for a scientific publication? What can a researcher take into account when selecting a journal for publication? Which role do considerations of Open Science play (e.g. how accessible should the data and the publication be?).

What made working on this topic so unique for me was that I had to understand the ideas, concerns, and questions of many different people within and outside our organization and integrate all of this into one coherent policy document. A policy addressing different aspects of scientific publications and the role they play for TNO. It sounds like a truism that a business developer will have a different view on the importance of scientific publications than a manager or a scientist. However, it helped me better understand how not only someone’s personality, but also someone’s function shapes the way one addresses an issue. Of course, working on this policy was also great to increase my internal network and to make connections that I can use at a later point, for example to get a particular expertise needed in a project.

I was really happy that at the end of my trainee spot the board of directors accepted the policy so that it is now in effect for the whole organization. And it is pretty cool that as a starter I can already contribute to such a crucial issue for the organization and also discuss my own point of view with experienced scientists and managers. I learned a lot about the bigger societal context in which scientific research takes place, which will hopefully also help me become a better scientist in the long run.

After my trainee time, I will stay at my current department, Sustainable Employability and Productivity, where I will work on topics like the future of work and inclusive work. I am looking forward to that and already now I will leave the traineeship with “one crying and one smiling eye”, as the German saying goes, knowing that for me it was the best possible start of my TNO career.

About the author

Name: Malte Steinhoff, MSc.
Background: Social and Organizational Psychology
Start date: September 2017

Departments
1st: Child Health, Leiden
2nd: Corporate Strategy/Corporate Science Office, Den Haag
3rd and current spot: Sustainable Productivity and Employability, Leiden

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