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Five minute profile: interview with Neil Rawlins

Casual headshot of Neil Rawlins sitting in a cafe
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Research Data Scotland

28 Mar 2023

Our interview series shines a light on what it’s like to work at RDS. Meet Neil Rawlins, Research Data Scotland Business Manager.

What’s your role at RDS and what are you working on?

I am the Business Manager and much of my work involves the governance of the organisation, from Board level and its two subcommittees through to oversight of areas such as risk management, net zero and company policies. I undertake a lot of the background organisational work for the wider RDS team. 

What does your typical workday involve?

I always start work at 8am with a coffee and read through of emails received. Whilst no two days are the same, a lot of my work revolves around planning for the cyclical nature of the RDS Board and its subcommittees. As part of the Operations team, I am involved in a wide range of activities supporting colleagues and arranging cross-organisational activities which can include anything from regular team meetings, away days or organising the Christmas lunch. 

RDS has committed to achieve carbon net zero. Having written the environmental and carbon net zero policy, work is now ongoing to understand what the baseline level for CO2 emissions is within the organisation, both in day-to-day operational work as well as our embedded carbon footprint. I am working on strategies and methods for RDS to reduce its carbon footprint and lead the RDS ‘Green Team’ which looks to deliver these goals. 

“As part of the Operations team, I am involved in a wide range of activities supporting colleagues and arranging cross-organisational activities which can include anything from regular team meetings, away days or organising the Christmas lunch.”

Neil Rawlins

What’s your background and how does it give you additional insight to your work at RDS?

I worked for two years as RDS project manager whilst it was part of Scottish Government before joining RDS once it was officially launched as a not-for-profit in January 2022. This ‘link to the past’ has allowed me to build long term relationships with partner colleagues, understand relationships and help retain the ‘corporate memory’. I also have a background in risk management and have oversight of the corporate risk register and provide advice to the Board and those who do ‘own’ risks. 

What’s a highlight and a challenge of your role?

A highlight is always the successful conclusion of a Board meeting where productive discussions on the issues that drive RDS and its vision forward are reached. The challenge is co-ordinating a group of extremely busy Board members and the collation of an eclectic mix of papers and documentation required for each Board meeting along with the subsequent dissemination of information and record keeping to maintain the corporate record.

“Whilst I do not have a background in data, after more than three years working on the RDS project, I have a clear understanding that administrative data collected, curated, suitably anonymised, linked and studied can help policy makers.”

Neil Rawlins

What difference do you hope RDS will make?

As a student of history, I understand that historical administrative data can tell us much about thinking and decision making at the time. Whilst I do not have a background in data, after more than three years working on the RDS project, I have a clear understanding that administrative data collected, curated, suitably anonymised, linked and studied can help policy makers. It helps with their thinking and decision making and ultimately improve the lives and outcomes for people across the country. 

Who, real-life or public figure, has inspired or motivated you in your career or life?

Dr Ann Cole. Still lecturing evening classes at the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education into her late 70’s, her enthusiasm and teaching for her Anglo-Saxon placenames courses were the inspiration for me to embark upon a course of adult learning, academic study and ultimately a Master’s degree in history. 

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