Opportunities for chemists in science policy

A science policy fellowship might be the first step to making the move from the bench toward Capitol Hill. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons User Elliot P.

Here at JAEP we’ve been on the topic of government jobs for chemists.

Glen wrote a post about a website, INSPIRE, that is full of information about government jobs for scientists. It is being piloted for a short time, so if you haven’t yet, check it out here and take the survey to help them improve the site. And earlier this week, I introduced you to Olen Stephens, a Ph.D. chemist who works for the FDA in regulatory affairs.

Today, we will segue a bit and discuss the field of science policy.

What is science policy?

Science policy is a field that is difficult to define because it encompasses lots of different types of work at the intersection of science and public policy. I’ll use an excerpt from an article I found by Geoffrey Hunt to break the common misconceptions about science policy:

Most people assume policymakers spend all of their time furtively hammering out laws in back rooms. In reality, those working in science policy have the opposite job: They take what is happening on the bench and bring it to the light of day… Science policy experts …[use] their talents to find ways to translate esoteric, often highly technical scientific issues into something that can be sold as good policy.”

For more information on science policy careers, check out the following Science Careers articles:

Science Policy: Establishing Guidelines, Setting Priorities, by Laura Haak.

Paths to Science Policy, by James Austin.

Bridging the Worlds of Science and Public Policy, by Andrew Fazekas.

There are several organizations that sponsor scientists and engineers to work in science policy—check out this list of policy fellowships compiled at The Intersection, a blog for Discover Magazine.

One of these organizations, which I’ll highlight here, is the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology (S&T) Policy Fellowships. Tomorrow I’ll follow up with a profile post about a Ph.D. chemist who’s currently an S&T Policy Fellow at the United States Department of Defense, so stay tuned for that!

AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship

AAAS started up the fellowship program in 1973 to help scientists get the opportunity “to participate in and contribute to the federal policymaking process while learning firsthand about the intersection of science and policy,” according to their website.

To date, more than 2,000 scientists and engineers have gone through the program. Check out their website for a complete overview of the history of the fellowship.

With the click of a button, you can let your voice be heard on science policy matters. Check out http://www.ucsusa.org/ to learn how. Photo credit: flickr user hermannyin.

To apply, you must have a Ph.D. or an equivalent doctoral-level degree, or have a Master’s degree in engineering with several years of professional experience. Click here for more details about eligibility and the application process.

Ways to get involved in science policy without a career change

Fellowships aside, there are other ways you can get involved in science policy matters without having to put aside your day job.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a “science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world,” according to their website.

Check out the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Action Center for practical advice on how scientists can take action to be the voice of science in policy matters.

And stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about a Ph.D. chemist who’s currently working as an AAAS S&T policy fellow!

Author: Christine Herman

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5 Comments

  1. Great piece Christine! Any thoughts/leads/info about being a science policy consultant or in government affairs for industry? Also, can I add a question for your guest tomorrow?: What’s next after being a policy fellow? Do they often stay with the agency they were a fellow for?

  2. For those attending the American Chemical Society 243 nat’l mtg San Diego, the Division of Small Chemical Businesses SCHB has organized “Making a Science Fellowship Part of Your Career Path” panel discussion (cosponsor BMGT, CCPA, CEPA, PROF, & YCC) Tue.27.March.2012, 3-5pm, SDCC Room 26B. ACS OPA also has a booth in the Expo for more information.

  3. @Joe: Thanks for sharing the info about the panel discussion!

    @STEM_Wonk: I will run this question by my source and get an answer for you :)

  4. @STEM_Wonk:

    Hello, and thanks for the great question! I received the following information from the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship Staff regarding the “next step” after the Fellowship. (Note – this only applies to AAAS S&T Policy Fellows, not necessarily participants in other fellowship programs.)

    Post-fellowship Opportunities
    (in the year after fellowship)

    Remain in public policy: 40-50%

    *Pursue a second fellowship year
    *Hired into full-time post at host agency or office (the office where the Fellow completed the Fellowship)
    *Work for another federal agency, Congress or Congressional Research Service
    *Pursue policy posts at local, state, regional, international levels
    *Take a position at a professional society, think tank, nonprofit in policy/government relations

    Return to work in the same sector: 20-25%

    *Return to previous position (sabbatical)
    *Obtain new position in the same field/sector

    Do something completely different: 20-25%

    *Move into a position in a new sector
    *Start a new academic degree program

  5. @Stephanie, Thanks for checking into this for me!