Getting Your Foot in the Door

Who out there knows what I mean when I use the term “science policy?” Who has had the opportunity to learn more about science policy through workshops, short courses, or seminars? Many of you started our journey as research-focused scientists, and plan to continue in research focused positions after graduation. Many students never have the chance to learn about other career paths available to those with post-baccalaureate science degrees. 

Scientists are usually great at communicating their science to other scientists, but often struggle to articulate their work to those outside their field. While there’s not necessarily an exact definition, science policy deals with the advocacy and communication of science to influence policy. Basically, we need those who understand science and the scientific method to ensure policymakers are using the most up to date information to draft laws and regulations.

Earlier in the summer I posted about science policy fellowships, which are typically a long-term commitment that can be intimidating to those who aren’t sure if it’s right for them. So as a follow-up post to that, I’ve decided to highlight some shorter term opportunities and resources that can help you determine your interest in science policy. I’ve participated in many of these, and I will list all that I’m aware of. This is by no means a complete list, but this can serve as a starting point, and may point you in the right direction to find opportunities that fit your interests.

***Events and opportunities may be interrupted this year (or next) due to COVID, so dates and regular timelines may be altered/cancelled. If you are interested in an event make sure to keep checking the websites and reaching out to organizers with any questions. ***

Before I get into specific opportunities, I wanted to provide links to scientific societies’ webpages dedicated to science policy. Here, you’ll find updated information on opportunities and more information on what science policy is. Also, check out your home universities website as they often have many opportunities related to science policy. Here at Penn State, we even have a science policy club that offers a lot of opportunities to get involved.

American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Geological Society of America (GSA)

American Meteorological Society (AMS)

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)

National Science Policy Network (NSPN)

Some specific opportunities:

Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop

This entry-level program is organized to educate STEM students who are interested in learning about the role of science in policymaking, to introduce them to the federal policy-making process, and to empower them with ways to become a voice for basic research throughout their careers.  It typically occurs around March/April, and some societies (like AGU) have a separate application to apply for funding to attend.

Summer Policy Colloquium

This colloquium provides an overview of policy basics, and how decisions are made governing the course and future of earth and atmospheric sciences. You can apply for NSF funding to cover the registration fee, room/board, and travel. This usually happens around June and applications are due around March/April.

GEO Congressional Visit Days

Each year, AGU sponsors Congressional Visits Days (CVDs), which brings our members to Washington, D.C. to meet with policymakers or provides the opportunity to meet at home in their Congressional districts. Attendees participate in a workshop with AGU staff, or a webinar for districts visits, before meeting with members of Congress or their staff to discuss the importance of federally funded scientific research.

National Science Policy Network Wiki Scientists Course

Members will participate in an in-depth, structured training about how to contribute science policy content to Wikipedia, giving early career scientists and engineers the dedicated time and support they need to join the Wikipedia community. These are usually offered once or twice a year.

National Science Policy Symposium

The National Science Policy Symposium is a two-day event held annually to bring together early career scientists and engineers with a passion for science policy, advocacy, diplomacy, and justice. Intended for all levels of experience, the schedule includes speakers, discussion panels, hands-on skill building workshops, and flash talks. This event is free and open to the public.

If you have any questions about opportunities or science policy in general, please feel free to reach out to me via email. Be sure to also follow H3S (@AGU_H3S) and me (@BrianRedder) on twitter for announcements on upcoming events!

By Brian Redder

Penn State University

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