George Papworth

George Papworth

Social Survey Scientist, Social and Economic Assessment Team, Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science)

Describe your job in a nutshell

We collect and report information on the diet and habits of members of the public that may influence their exposure to artificial sources of ionising radiation from licensed nuclear sites. The work of the team is carried out on behalf of external customers, mainly the FSA, EA and ONR. The results are used in radiological dose assessments that support these agencies in their role of monitoring and regulating the nuclear industry, in order to ensure that approved levels of public exposure to radioactivity are not exceeded, and that public health is thereby protected

How did you get into this work?

I studied Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia and then after graduating, I went travelling for a bit. When I came back, I gradually got involved in renewable energy projects as a small-scale wind turbine site surveyor, before getting the job at Cefas – which I found out about from the environmentjob email update!

Nuclear energy is quite a controversial area to be involved with, how does this affect your work?

We’re independent surveyors, so we have to be very careful about what we say and pass no comment on sites.

Even if you just nod along with something that is being said, it can be misconstrued as agreement. Often residents may have strong opinions about a nuclear site nearby, and they might vent that to us during our surveys, but we have to remain impartial, so diplomacy is key!

More often than not, our communications with the public are uneventful – we go to each site every 5 years, so local residents are often very familiar with what we’re doing and we have good relationships with them.

All our surveys are voluntary too, so if someone doesn’t want to partake then that’s not a problem either.

What other skills do you use in your job?

It’s a bit of a mixed role at the moment – my main job is to do the habits surveys, and on the back of that I’ve created the maps which are used in the reports, which has led to me being trained up in GIS work. Now I’ve got that skill, I’m helping out on the Marine Conservation Zone work as well. Our company has the Cefas Endeavour – the boat which surveys the seabed, and when the data comes back to us I plot it and map it out using GIS. So that’s added another dimension to my work.

The biggest change was moving from a small start-up wind turbine company to the civil service. It was all quite different in terms of the size of the organisation, the number of employees and the associated systems and protocols that go alongside that, so a bit of a culture shock at first!

Is the job what you expected?

Yes, I’d say so. The biggest change was moving from a small start-up wind turbine company to the civil service. It was all quite different in terms of the size of the organisation, the number of employees and the associated systems and protocols that go alongside that, so a bit of a culture shock at first!

Any advice for graduates wanting to get into a similar line of work?

Get out there ASAP and do volunteer work, and try out as many different things as possible! I did an environmental science degree, which is very broad and doesn’t train you up to do one specific job – there are so many different routes that you can go down. My advice would be to try different things and then focus on one area that you’re interested in, find some volunteer work in that area and take it from there.