So you’re interested in a career in science policy, but what does that mean exactly? As it turns out, there are quite a few ways in which the arenas of "science" and "policy" can interact. For any early career scientist interested in exploring the various options that a career in science policy might entail, one of the most important questions that you should be asking is: what do I actually want to do? Knowing the answer (or answers!) to that question can go a long way in helping guide your decisions about how to best spend your time, energy, and expertise. Of course, knowing exactly what you want to do is often elusive and complicated for many of us, so we at Project Bridge have put together this toolkit as a starting point to help guide your research into the possible next step of your career.
This list is by no means comprehensive and many of these positions may not be mutually exclusive. Our goal is simply to provide helpful resources to springboard your career in science policy!
Written and compiled by Zoe O'Donoghue and Caitlin Winkler.
Scientific outreach can include advocating for increasing scientific funding, diversity in STEM fields, or general scientific literacy amongst the public. This can be accomplished oftentimes in tandem with a more "traditional" job in academia. Check out:
Scientific outreach can also include explaining relevant scientific issues to legislators or other lay-populations. This includes acting as the “resident expert” when legislators need particular aspects or implications of legislation to be explained. This can either be a dedicated position or in addition to a position in academia.
These positions typically play a role in drafting or analyzing the implications of bills. This obviously requires a significant amount of researching and writing so if you don’t love those then this may not be the best fit. On the other hand, you get to play a role in designing and creating the bills that may one day become law. Positions may be available at local, state, and federal levels.
A lobbyist influences legislation related to a particular issue area on behalf of an individual special interest or specific group. These people often get a bad rap but lobbyists CAN lobby for scientifically positive and beneficial legislation as well. The National Postdoc Association has a great primer and resources for early career scientists interested in lobbying.
iBiology – scientific research and career resources, especially towards increasing all types of science communication
AAAS’ A Scientist’s Guide to Policy and working with congress
National Science Policy Network – resources for scientists interested in policy
500 Women Scientists – an excellent resource for getting involved in science communication and advocacy at home and globally
AAAS Fellowships - not just "Science & Technology" fellowships!
University of California, San Francisco’s Career Office – articles and resources on science policy careers, as well as a list of various fellowship opportunities
Engaging Scientists and Engineers in Policy (ESEP) Coalition – an extensive list of national and global science policy fellowship opportunities.
The Colorado Science Policy Summit was held on October 3, 2019 and hosted by Project Bridge and Science in Action from Colorado State University. Speakers included legislators and scientists currently engaged in policy development who discussed the process of developing bills and where and when and how scientists can get involved.
Explore notes from the Colorado Science Policy Summit (complied by Kelsey Barcomb).
Excited to pursue a career in science policy but don’t want to wait to start getting involved and making a difference? Check out the sections below for ways you can help advocate for science now!
Help turn out the vote! One of the most effective ways to create scientific policy or social change is to vote for legislatures that advocate for science. You can help increase voter turnout in both local and national elections by getting involved with organizations like:
Several other organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters also work to uphold voting rights for all Americans across the country.
Also consider getting involved with your local government, which has huge influence and impact on people’s daily lives. You can attend town hall meetings, get involved with your local political party, or volunteer for local campaigns. You could even consider joining a local city board or committee. Whatever you do, you can use your position to advocate for science and support local politicians and organizations that advocate for science too.
Join the Union of Concerned Scientists Science Network and sign up to watchdog for science. The UCS provides tools, opportunities, and action items to effectively push back on attacks on science, and to push for science-informed solutions. Also check out SciPol.org, a nonpartisan public website offered by Duke University’s Initiative for Science and Society that tracks, analyzes, and promotes engagement with science and technology policy across a range of fields.
Get involved with our local community by checking out other on-campus groups like Women in STEM, or organizations like Young Hands in Science, which works to increase science engagement, knowledge and diversity among Colorado students. You can also volunteer with scientific institutions like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science or the Denver Zoo to help engage the public scientifically. The AAAS has an extensive list of outreach resources, including programs in the U.S. and abroad, mentorship programs, and opportunities to serve as online scientific experts.
Like to write? Check out these great options to advocate for science from the comfort of your keyboard:
Write a public comment. Public comments allow you engage directly with government agencies proposing new rules and regulations, such as the Food and Drug Administration.
The suggestions submitted to these agencies can and do influence their actions. For example, check out this letter written
by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in regards to the FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy, an initiative that seeks solutions to reduce
the number of preventable deaths and disease related to poor nutrition.
Get involved with the National Science Policy Network’s 2020 Election Initiative. Learn how to write a collaborative meta-review about a scientific topic that’s important to you, then choose from several tracks to focus your outreach and advocacy efforts on like building and contributing to public resources like Wikipedia, writing policy memos and white papers, and publishing op-eds.
Want even more ideas for how to get involved? Check out resources like the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientist Advocacy Toolkit and the Indivisible Guide. They include tips and tools for engaging with policymakers, community groups, and the media, advice for designing your own actions and campaigns, and ways to stay informed on the latest threats to science and what you can do about it!