AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships Program Receives $30.1 Million EPA Award

The renowned AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program this month entered into a five-year cooperative agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will provide $30.1 million in support for hundreds of scientists and engineers.

“The EPA award is a wonderful testament to AAAS, to the program, and to the Fellows,” said Program Director Cynthia Robinson. “It is also a fine way to mark the launch of the 30th annual cohort of Fellows at the EPA.”

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Cynthia Robinson

The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships program, established in 1973, has sent more than 2,300 scientists and engineers to apply their knowledge and skills in Congress and nearly 20 executive branch agencies and departments. The new EPA award, the largest in the history of the AAAS program, will support up to 230 Fellows from September 2010 through August 2015.

All AAAS S&T Policy Fellows gain real-world policy experience with the policy-development process, encompassing research, analysis, development, implementation, and more. They also have opportunities to help support critical societal issues—from world hunger and disaster preparedness, to food safety, biological threats, and the energy crisis.

Each AAAS Fellow assigned to EPA will participate for one to two years in efforts that further the Agency’s goal to protect and enhance the relationship between people and ecosystems. In recent years, for example, AAAS Fellows have investigated the environmental impacts of climate change and ecosystem invasion by non-native plants and animals, water pollution, and biodiversity. Recent highlights of activities conducted by S&T Policy Fellows at EPA have included the following projects:

Biodiversity and Human Health—Fellow Meghan Radtke collaborated with the Smithsonian National Zoo to design and implement an exhibit focusing on Lyme disease and the importance of biodiversity in controlling its transmission to humans. Her efforts within the Office of the Science Advisor, Office of Research and Development, were part of the Biodiversity and Human Health Initiative. She also engaged with the Science Policy Council on efforts related to asbestos.

Ecosystem Invaders—Fellow Betsy Von Holle, hosted in the EPA’s National Center for Ecological Assessment, was involved in a scientific event focusing on the impacts of ecosystem invasion by non-native plants and animals. In particular, Von Holle collaborated on developing a framework for measuring the impacts of such invasions, which may help guide policy and regulatory efforts in the future.

Water Pollution—In small amounts, the trace element selenium is essential to human health, but larger quantities are highly toxic to people and animals. Fellow Gary Russo provided input to strategies for implementing new water quality criteria for selenium, in support of the EPA’s National Water Quality Standards. The resulting guidance document is helping states incorporate new criteria into state water quality standards.

Chemical Safety—Fellow Kelly Grant’s efforts included a meeting between the EPA and Environment Canada that focused on perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs. She also fostered a partnership with manufacturers of tire-balancing products made without lead. Her many other activities included collaborating with the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response to increase the use of such improved materials, and more. She was assigned to the EPA’s partnership program Design for the Environment.

Environmental Policy—Strategies for environmental evaluation were the focus of Fellow Christina Kakoyannis when she was assigned to the EPA’s Office of Environmental Policy Innovation. She collaborated with the evaluation manager at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to organize a networking forum and also developed partnerships among U.S. and international evaluators.

Climate Change—An investigation of potential climate change impacts on human health and ecosystems, including air and water quality, was the focus of Fellow Christopher Weaver. After being placed in the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment Global Change Research Program, Weaver was engaged in a key assessment related to the U.S. Climate Change Science Program.

In recent years, other AAAS S&T Policy Fellows placed at an array of agencies and offices have organized a forum on sustainable urban development in the Middle East, retrained Iraqi weapons scientists to do civilian work, and helped to transform former anthrax factories in Russia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan into vaccine production and disease surveillance facilities in those countries. Most recently, for example, current and former Fellows assigned to the U.S. Agency for International Development helped assess water, sanitation and food needs following the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

The 2009-2010 cohort of more than 180 Fellows included 31 who were dispatched within the EPA. The 2010-2011 class, the largest in the S&T Policy Fellowship Program’s history, totals 210 Fellows.

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Learn more about the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program