Waste, Resources, Action

Barbara Leach

Head of Research and Evaluation
WRAP, Dr Barbara Leach
PGR Careers Case Study:

My PhD looked at the relationship between choice of policy instrument and the process of designing and implementing the policy. It focused on waste reduction policies.

I graduated in 2000. I was a mature student (26) when I started my PhD which was funded through an ESRC bursary. On completion I returned to the company I had worked for previously – M·E·L Research based at Aston Science Park – as Head of Waste and Environment Research. My current role is Head of Research and Evaluation for WRAP, the Waste & Resources Action Programme, a charity promoting recycling, reuse and material resource efficiency based in Banbury www.wrap.org.uk.

How has your PhD prepared you and given you relevant transferable skills for your current role?

I don’t have a Masters degree, so it gave me a valuable qualification in research. I have recently used the thinking I did as part of my PhD to make the case to Defra for continued funding of the charity. Experience in critical thinking is always useful. My PhD thesis was much too long so I also gained valuable skills in editing.

Was it always your goal to pursue a career outside of academia? If not, at what stage of your PhD journey did you decide not to build an academic career?

Yes. I prefer working in a more commercial setting. I have no interest in teaching.

What support have you had to help you make the move from your PhD to your job? For example from Careers Network, mentors and academics?

None. I was an experienced researcher before starting my PhD and already had my own network as I entered the PhD as a mature student with several years’ experience in the sector.

Please add any tips or advice for researchers considering a career outside of academia.

Be aware of the drivers for research outside academia – it’s not just about creating new knowledge for the sake of it, but for a reason. Sometimes you have to make methodological compromises to meet the needs of the research funders or stakeholders. Slightly less than perfect research done at a time when it can make a difference is much more valuable than perfect research that either doesn’t happen because it’s unaffordable or takes so long to complete that it misses key decision points. Research for policy is fast paced and you have to be comfortable with that.

Please invite your employer to add any relevant information about job opportunities for PhDs with their company

WRAP employs many people with PhDs, but this is not normally a criteria on the job description. All job opportunities are posted on our website www.wrap.org.uk.

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