POST gets lots of questions about how it produces POSTnotes. This guide will hopefully make things more transparent and easier for people to contribute ideas.
Ideas for POSTnotes are gathered by staff in POST. These can come from developments in technology, research, public policy or legislation or suggestions from MPs, Peers or external organisations. Ideas can also be gathered by advisers attending events, speaking to experts and reading academic publications or the popular press.
POST continuously assesses issues that are of importance to Parliament. View POST's online longlist. POST is also accepting ideas for new POSTnotes through this online form.
These ideas are worked into proposals – one page summaries that include background and information about relevance and Parliamentary interest. These proposals are presented to the POST Board which then selects those topics they want to become full POSTnotes.
Most of the POSTnotes produced by POST are written by Fellows. These are PhD students funded by either a Research Councils, learned society or charity to come and work in Parliament on three month placements. The number of POSTnotes selected by the Board is in relation to the number of fellows coming into POST. In some instances proposals not chosen by the POST Board can be asked to be brought back to a subsequent board meeting.
In researching its briefings, POST consults widely inside and outside of Parliament, speaking to stakeholders from government departments, academia, industry, learned societies, think tanks and NGOs. All POST briefings are peer-reviewed by internal colleagues (both within POST and outside from the House of Commons library for example) and externally. On average, each briefing is peer reviewed by approximately 10-20 external experts. Each briefing goes through the following seven stages before being published:
- Research This starts with desk based research across a wide set of disciplines as well as interviews with key stakeholders and subject experts. Desk based research usually consists of searching databases, journals, the internet and ‘grey literature’ such as research undertaken outside of universities by government, business, think tanks or third sector organisations. It also involves looking to see what is said about the topic in Parliamentary debate and proceedings and in the media. Meeting with key stakeholders include internal experts (such as specialists in the House of Commons and Lords libraries and specialists for relevant select committees). A one-page scoping document is produced to give potential contributors an idea of the outline of the POSTnote. Contributions are sought from: academia, government, the private sector and, public interest organisations.
- Draft – POSTnotes are four-pages in length and generally follow a similar structure. First the topic is introduced and the scientific background outlined. Next, the policy background is explained giving details about current or proposed policy in the area, finally the issues (either current or forthcoming) that the topic raises are outlined.
- Internal review – The draft POSTnote is reviewed by a team of POST advisers and occasionally a colleague from the Commons library depending on the subject area.
- Re-draft – the document is edited in light of comments received at internal review
- External review – The revised draft is sent out to relevant external experts (usually some of those who were consulted with as part of the research stage). On average this involves between 10-20 reviewers.
- Re-draft – further edits are made after consideration of external review comments
- Sign off – POST’s Director reviews the notes and gives permission to publish.