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 Members and staff within Parliament or external organisations. Ideas can also be gathered by advisers attending events, speaking to experts and reading academic publications or the popular press. POST also accepts suggestions for POSTnotes from the public through this online form. Staff will consider these alongside their own list of topics.
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 the topics that will become full POSTnotes. In some instances, the POST Board may ask for unselected topics to be proposed again at a subsequent board meeting
Most of the POSTnotes produced by POST are written by Fellows. These are PhD students funded by either a Research Council, learned society or charity to work in Parliament on three month placements.
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 POSTnotes are peer-reviewed both internally and externally. Each POSTnote goes through the following seven stages before being published:
- Research – This starts with desk based research and 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. Meetings are held with key stakeholders including internal experts (such as specialists in the select committees and the House of Commons and Lords libraries). 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.
- 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 as part of the research stage). On average this involves between 10 and 20 reviewers.
- Re-draft – Further edits are made in light of external review comments
- Sign off – POST’s Director reviews the notes and gives permission to publish.