Volunteer and Intern opportunities

The RSS welcomes volunteers and interns, and values the contribution they make to our work. We must emphasise that opportunities are limited. If a need is identified, we will advertise opportunities on our website. Expressions of interest are welcome – see the section on ‘selection of volunteers and interns’ for details.

It should be noted that the work carried out by RSS staff is not generally related to the use and production of statistics. We are the administrative support centre for our members and as such carry out a wide range of duties. Please see the section below on ‘areas of work for volunteers/interns’.

The minimum age for volunteers and interns is normally 18 with no upper age limit.

Volunteers and interns at the RSS are individuals who commit themselves to undertaking a variety of tasks without a contract of employment or financial reward.

Volunteers are individuals providing unpaid assistance, either for a ‘one off’ project or on a more regular short or long-term basis.

Interns are individuals with an interest, such as students doing a degree in statistics, data science, public policy for example, who are attached to the RSS full or part time for a period. Interns often (but not always) join the RSS as part of an ongoing placement programme. They are distinguished from other volunteers by their primary aim of obtaining work experience in their field of interest.

Purpose of volunteering and internships

The RSS recognises that volunteers and interns can make an appropriate and valuable contribution to its work and services. Through their donation of labour, skills and enthusiasm, the time needed to complete projects is reduced; and paid staff are enabled to devote more time and attention to tasks requiring specialised knowledge. In this way, volunteers and interns help the RSS to fulfil its mission in a cost-effective manner. In return, the RSS seeks to help them achieve personal goals within a non-profit organisation.

The following sets out the principles, practices and procedures which the RSS will follow in the appointment, training and management of volunteers and interns.

Selection of volunteers and interns

Volunteers/interns are selected based on skills, experience, interests, the organisation’s needs and the person’s availability for a project.

Expressions of interest are welcome. They should be addressed to the HR Director (n.emmerson@rss.org.uk), who will be pleased to give informal advice. Applications for placement should contain a C.V. and a cover letter with details of the time frame that you would be available, including the number of days per week, and the learning objectives you hope to achieve. Applications are then forwarded to the appropriate staff team and are vetted through a selection process. Wherever possible, an interview will be conducted with the prospective volunteer/intern in person or over the phone. Prior to starting the role, an agreement between the volunteer/intern and the organisation will be signed. This sets out the remit of the role, agreed working days and times, and expectations on both sides.

Please note that there may not always be opportunities available at the time you request a placement: we will let you know this as soon as possible after we receive your expression of interest.

Supervision

Volunteers/interns will have a line manager who is their first point of contact. The line manager will be responsible for monitoring the volunteer’s/intern’s work, giving feedback and discussing progress. Feedback meetings will be offered during the project, and a final debriefing discussion held at the end of each project.

All volunteers/interns will undertake an induction process with their line manager and other appropriate RSS staff members.

At the end of the of the volunteer’s/intern’s time at the RSS the line manager will compile a brief work report outlining the time frame, tasks and any special projects that the volunteer/intern worked on.

Equal opportunities

The RSS has an equal opportunities policy. It is committed to ensuring that the recruitment and treatment of its volunteers and interns are carried out without prejudice regarding sex, marital status, race, nationality, ethnic origin, age, class, sexual orientation, colour, disability or any other grounds which cannot be justified, thus making opportunities as accessible as possible.

Volunteers/interns involved in contact with the public must have an awareness of the above issues.

Relationship between volunteers/interns and paid staff

Volunteers and interns complement the paid workforce but are not a substitute for employees. The RSS does not replace paid staff with volunteers/interns. The presence of volunteers/interns should not undermine the working conditions of employees. The RSS intends that relations between paid staff and volunteers/interns will be characterised by mutual trust and clear definition of their respective roles.

Areas of work for volunteers/interns

As stated previously, the RSS staff carry out many functions to support both our members and the discipline and to promote statistics, data and evidence for the public good. Opportunities are most likely to be available in the following areas:

  • Writing reports on statistical issues, such as Robert Silk's 'How Statistics is taught around the world; Identifying good practice', written during a TeachFirst summer internship at the Society.
  • Web and multi-media
  • Public affairs – research and policy
  • Membership and professional affairs (including member recruitment and engagement)
  • Publications – research and writing for our web or print publications
  • Training, events and venue hire

Expenses

The RSS reimburses volunteers’ and interns’ travel expenses (with receipts) within the London area, by the cheapest means available, unless these expenses are already covered or a special arrangement has been made.

Confidentiality

The RSS regards volunteers’ and interns’ personal data as confidential. Volunteers/interns are expected to treat any information relating to the RSS, its membership and operations, to which they may have access both during and after the placement period, as confidential.

Copyright

Volunteers/interns must not download, copy or transmit to third parties the work of others without permission, as this may infringe copyright.

Insurance

Volunteers/interns carrying out their assigned tasks within the RSS premises are covered by the Society’s Employers’ Liability insurance.

Disputes and complaints

We hope and intend that all periods of volunteering and internship will be happy and rewarding to all parties, occasionally, however, things go wrong. Any problems that may arise on either side should be resolved through informal discussion. If the issues prove to be irreconcilable, either side has the option to terminate the arrangement with immediate effect.


My experience as an intern at the RSS – May-July 2017

Ronan McAdam, Grantham Institute of Climate Change & The Environment, Imperial College London.

In the summer of 2017, I took two months out of my PhD to work at the RSS office. Coming from the Physics Department at Imperial College London, it was always going to be a change for me to enter the world of policy. Nonetheless, I’m glad to say I had a very rewarding couple of months at the RSS.

My time there was split between two roles; first of all working with the Policy & Public Affairs team, and later preparing articles for the RSS members magazine “Significance”. I joined just as the shock general election campaign entered full swing and manifestos were being released, which was of course a very busy but exciting time for the team. My first task was to draft a letter to the new Metro Mayors, asking for their plans on opening up local data to their new constituents. It was a challenge to catch the attention of the (very busy) recipients while trying to convince them of our point of view in just half a page. To see positive responses come back really felt rewarding.

My main task was to produce briefing notes which complemented the themes set out by the RSS’ Data Manifesto. During my time, myself and Olivia Varley-Winter (Policy & Research Manager) researched for and wrote the following notes: “Increase investment in research and innovation”, “Give citizens greater access to quality local data”, “Make further progress on open data, including open research data”(available online). Later, working with Brian Tarran (Significance Editor), I was given the freedom to write a feature article on a topic related to my research. My PhD project is about the ocean currents and connections between different parts of the ocean, so I decided to devote the article to the huge and urgent problem of marine plastic pollution. I was very proud to see the article published in the October Edition of Significance; it was also covered by a major Italian newspaper!

One of the standout moments of my time at the RSS was the day, when it was announced that Ministers, 'spin doctors' and other would no longer have pre-release access to official figures from the Office for National Statistics. The RSS played a big role in the campaign for this and there was a real sense of victory in the building after the announcement. It was genuinely inspiring to see how the RSS’ had contributed to the downfall of an unfair practice that was potentially open to abuse.

Besides the work, the RSS team made me feel part of the “family” from day one – from the Monday pilates sessions to the lunchtime trips to the food market, it was a very enjoyable place to work!