Despite the current political climate, policymakers are turning more to scientists for guidance as we collectively face major health and environmental challenges. Collaborations between scientists and individuals crafting public policy have significantly increased over the past twenty years. Scientists now act as advisors on key issues ranging from agriculture to healthcare as well as communicate the importance of funding research. While these collaborations and job prospects grow, trainees have opportunities to apply for policy fellowships and hone their advocacy skills by meeting directly with policymakers. Below we provide examples of fellowships and other ways to prepare for a career in this exciting arena.
Key skills to succeed in this field:
- Ease with public speaking
- Proven ability to communicate research to diverse audiences
- Strong research skills
- Knowledge of & experiences with public policy processes
- Direct experience with advocacy a plus!
Policy Fellowships for Trainees
Science & technology policy fellowships through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) offer PhD-level scientists hands-on experience working with policymakers addressing complex issues. These fellowships are competitive and seek candidates who are involved in science policy organizations, advocacy groups and outreach activities. Fortunately, there are abundant opportunities to join a group or organization during your time at UCI. For a comprehensive list of internships and fellowships in science & technology policy visit: Beyond Sputnik: US Science Policy in the 21st Century or The GSA Policy Fellowship Database.
Additional Science Policy Fellowships Include:
- American Association of Immunologist Public Policy Fellows Program (PPFP). The PPFP provides postdoctoral fellows and other junior scientists, including assistant professors, who are committed to a career in biomedical research with the opportunity to learn about and participate in the public policy and legislative activities of AAI.
- AAAS Mass Media Fellowship. Strengthens the connections between scientists and journalists by placing advanced undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level scientists, engineers and mathematicians at media organizations nationwide.
- American Chemical Society Public Policy Fellowships. Provide a unique opportunity for chemists and ACS members to gain practical experience and insights into public policy by working on Capitol Hill or at ACS in Washington, DC.
UCI resources that provide training, address skill gaps & build networks:
- Science Policy Group at UCI. A chapter of the National Science Policy Group bringing together members of the UCI community interested in how science can inform policy and/or how policy informs scientific research. Offers meetings, policy case discussions, advocacy trips…to name a few!
- Public Impact Fellowship. Supports doctoral or MFA students whose current research has the potential for substantial impact in the public sphere. Selected fellows have the opportunity to participate in advocacy.
- UCI Public Policy Prep (P3). Organized by GPS-BIOMED, the program incorporates: public policy seminars, communication workshops, trainee working groups led by local advocacy groups or campus partners, and visits to Sacramento & Washington D.C. Open to STEM scientists across campus.
- Associate Graduate Students (AGS) Lobby Corps. As a member of the AGS Lobby Corps, trainees will have opportunities to meet with policymakers and their staff to discuss the issues that are important to graduate students.
- Newkirk Center for Science & Society. The goals of the center are to improve science’s response to community needs and to increase the effective uses of scientific information for the benefit of society. Offers activities and training.
Consider participating in advocacy trips to strengthen your communication skills & build experience for a career in public policy. Many scientific societies have advocacy “hill days” where groups of scientists travel to Washington D.C. to meet with policymakers. Below are a few examples:
- Society for Neuroscience, Capitol Hill Day. Hallmark advocacy event of the year. SfN members from across the country convene on Capitol Hill to meet with their congressional representatives to discuss advances in the field of neuroscience, share the economic and public health benefits of investment in biomedical research, and make the case for strong national investment in scientific research through NIH and NSF.
- American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Hill Day. Every year, the ASBMB brings trainees from across the country to meet with their Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. This fully-funded opportunity allows trainees to promote scientific research by directly interacting with policymakers.
- American Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits. Each year, AIBS organizes an opportunity for scientists to inform the nation’s science policy. The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits enables scientists to meet with their federal or state elected officials in their home state–not in Washington, DC–and allows policymakers to learn first-hand about the science and research facilities in their district.
- Ecological Society of America, Congressional Visits. Multiple times throughout the year, ESA’s public affairs staff arrange meetings for Society members to connect with policymakers and discuss issues of concern to the ecological science community.
- The National Council Hill Day. The National Council’s Hill Day is the largest behavioral health advocacy event of the year. Held in partnership with 20 national mental health and addiction organizations, Hill Day gathers hundreds of behavioral health providers, C-suite level executives, board members, consumers and community stakeholders in D.C. for a day of sessions and workshops on federal behavioral health policy.
Additional Reading & Webinars:
- Sharing Science Webinars. Variety of science communication, advocacy and policy webinars.
- Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), Advocacy Tool Kit. Describes how to become an advocate, request a meeting with your elected official, write a letter to congress and connect on social media to get the word out.
- Paths to Science Policy. Featured article in Science