FAQ about S&T Policy Fellowships

*NOTE: Click here for the Alumni Fellowships (GHD and Overseas) FAQ.

Application Questions

Eligibility Questions

Program Questions


Application Questions

Q: When is the deadline for STPF fellowship applications?
The annual deadline is November 1, without exception. All required information, including three letters of recommendation, must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time on that date. Applications are accepted from May 1, when the application portal opens, through the November 1 deadline, for the fellowship class that begins the following September.

Q: How many individuals apply each year and how many are selected?
The number of fellowships awarded relative to the number of applicants is different for each of the fellowship program areas. We urge you not to consider "the odds," but to apply to the program areas that fit best with your interests and area(s) of expertise. It is in those areas that you will be most competitive. In a typical year, more than 130 first-year fellowships are awarded. In addition, approximately 30 congressional and 10 executive branch fellowships are awarded by our partner scientific and engineering societies.

Q: How do I prepare a competitive application?
Applicants can improve their chances of gaining a fellowship by reading the information on the STPF website and the application portal thoroughly to ensure an understanding of the focus of the different fellowship program areas, the eligibility requirements, and the application instructions. Applicants should allow enough time to develop a comprehensive, well written and error-free candidate statement. It is critical to contact references early to provide them sufficient time to prepare a thoughtful and thorough letter of recommendation. It is also essential to follow the application instructions. Do not submit documents that exceed the mandated page or word limits. If invited for an on-line semifinalist interview, be prepared to concisely articulate your interests and background, and the policy implications of your scientific/technical expertise.

Q: May I apply to more than one STPF Fellowship program area?
Yes, you may apply to up to two STPF fellowship program areas. Keep in mind that each fellowship area is distinct from the others, with a unique focus and requirements. It is necessary to submit a separate application to each fellowship program area. To learn more about the five fellowship program areas, please click here. Additional fellowship opportunities are available through AAAS’s partner scientific and engineering societies.

Q: What happens if one or more of my letters of recommendation arrive late or not at all?
All required information must be received by the November 1 deadline for an application to be considered complete. Applications with fewer than three letters of recommendation will be designated as ineligible and will not proceed to the next stage.

Q: When will applicants be notified regarding the status of their application and candidacy for a fellowship?
Applicants will be notified of the status of their application at several points through the application and selection process. Please see the Fellowship Schedule for details.

Q. What are possible reasons that an applicant is not selected to advance in the review process or selected for a Science & Technology Policy Fellowship?
Applicants may not be selected for a number of reasons that are in no sense a negative reflection on the individual or her/his scientific background. These reasons might include those noted below.

  • The applicant is perceived to be at too early a stage in her/his career to benefit fully from the fellowship.
  • The applicant has not demonstrated a focus on applying his/her scientific expertise in a broader societal and policy context.
  • The applicant is perceived to be already well-skilled in policy-related activities, and therefore would not benefit fully from the experience that the fellowship provides.

Q: If not selected, may I reapply for a fellowship?
Yes. AAAS does not impose limits on the number of times a candidate may apply. There are applicants who have become fellows on their second or third application.

Q. May I receive feedback on my application or interview either before or after it is submitted?
AAAS does not provide written or verbal feedback on applications or interviews. The pool of applicants, the semifinalists, the reviewers, and the configuration of the selection committees change annually. Therefore, feedback provided one year would not necessarily be relevant in the next application cycle.

Eligibility Questions

Q: What are the components of a strong application to a STPF fellowship?
There is no "ideal" candidate for a STPF fellowship. Fellows come from the full range of scientific and engineering disciplines; they arrive from academia, industry and the non-profit sectors; and they represent a broad range of career stages, from recent PhDs and postdoctoral fellows, to mid-career professionals, and faculty on sabbatical, to retired individuals.

Q: Is previous experience in public policy necessary to be a strong candidate?
No, the STPF fellowships are designed to help scientists and engineers learn about the policymaking process by participating in it. However, it is important to convey an understanding of the societal impacts of science in your application materials and during an interview. You should also be prepared to speak about how your specific scientific specialty relates to policy issues and how it can be applied in government decision-making.

Q: Do I have to have PhD to apply for a STPF Fellowship?
No. If you have a master's degree in any field of engineering with a minimum of three years of professional engineering experience (not including further academic studies) you may apply for a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. Scientists in the biological, physical, health/medical, or social sciences are required to have a terminal scientific degree (e.g. PhD, ScD, DVM, MD, etc.) to be eligible for a AAAS Fellowship.

Q: I am completing my qualifying degree after the application deadline but before the fellowship year starts. Will I be eligible?
No. STPF will NOT accept applications from anyone who does not meet the degree requirements by 1 November. If this is your situation, we hope that you will consider applying next year. NOTE: STPF’s partner scientific societies sponsoring congressional and executive branch fellowships have different application deadlines and selection criteria. We encourage you to explore fellowship opportunities offered by partner societies whose focus is connected to your discipline. For a list of these societies, please click here.

Q: Am I eligible if I have completed all the requirements for my qualifying degree (e.g, PhD), but my degree will not be conferred until after the application deadline?
Candidates who have completed all of the requirements for their qualifying degree by 1 November, but whose degree will not be conferred until after 1 November, may be eligible for a AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship. The candidate must complete all degree requirements by November 1, including dissertation defense and any revisions. The verification vendor will ask for proof that you have satisfied all of your degree requirements, which may be satisfied by an official letter from your chair or registrar.

Q: Are permanent residents of the United States eligible for a STPF fellowship?
No. United States citizenship is required for eligibility for all Fellowships administered by STPF. Permanent resident status does not qualify.

Q: If I become a U.S. citizen after the application deadline but before the start of the fellowship year, will I be eligible?
No. Applicants must be U.S. citizens at the time of application.

Q: Why are federal employees not eligible for the STPF fellowships?
The STPF Fellowships are designed to educate scientists, engineers and health professionals about the policy process, and bring additional scientific knowledge and external perspectives to government decision-making. The opportunity to participate in policy is often already available to federal employees within the federal system.

Q: Are individuals with post-doctoral appointments at federal agencies or national labs considered federal employees?
No, with the exception of individuals holding Title 42 positions. This category conveys the privileges of federal employment, and therefore is not eligible for the AAAS Fellowships. Applicants who hold a temporary/term-limited fellowship or post-doc position at a federal agency are eligible, as are post-doctoral fellows at national labs.

Q: Are members of the military eligible to apply?
No. Members of the active duty military are federal employees and are therefore not eligible. 

Q: I applied last year; do I need to complete the verification form again?
Yes, your applicant data must be reassessed each application year. Because several items may change, data from each application year is independent; older applicant data cannot be utilized in the current application cycle. 

Q: I have to withdraw my application; can I get a refund for my form fee?
No, the verification of applicant data is processed by an external organization and requires a nominal fee paid by you directly to the verification vendor, not to AAAS. AAAS does not receive any of the funds and cannot provide a refund. 


Program Questions

Q: Does AAAS have any fellowship programs for undergraduate or graduate students?
Yes. AAAS also administers the Mass Media Fellowship Program, which places undergraduate and graduate students at various media sites throughout the United States during the summer months, to work as science journalists.  AAAS also operates EntryPoint! – fellowships for scientists and engineers with disabilities. Visit the fellowships page for more information about both.

Q: What is the selection committee?
A selection committee typically consists of eight individuals representing a range of backgrounds – discipline (e.g., physical and social sciences; engineering; health professions); sector (government, academia, nonprofit); and others. Each program area has up to four selection committees. Once an application has been assigned to a committee, it remains with that committee throughout the selection process. 

Q: What is the role of the selection committee?
Selection committees meet in late January. Based on their collective review of the applications, they decide which applicants to invite for semifinalist interviews. The selection committee also chooses the topic(s) for a one-page briefing memo on science policy. The candidates research, write, and submit the briefing memo approximately ten days before their interview. Semifinalist interviews take place over a two-week period at the end of February and beginning of March, but an individual committee meets for only one or two days during this period. Because of this, STPF’s ability to reschedule semifinalist interviews is very limited.

Q: When do semifinalist interviews take place?
Semifinalist interviews take place remotely, over a two-week period, in late February and early March. They are conducted using video conferencing technology. Candidates must be available for interviews; there are no exceptions or deferrals.

Q: What happens during a semifinalist interview?
Semifinalist interviews are conducted remotely. The committee members meet together in person, while the candidate interacts with the committee via videoconference. STPF staff will provide information and resources to the candidates on how to make the most of the online format. The interview lasts 30 minutes. It begins with the candidate giving a five-minute presentation of his/her briefing memo, followed by five minutes of questions on the briefing memo, then up to twenty minutes of general questions. The selection committees designate the fellows in the congressional, judicial and Revelle fellowships. They designate “finalists” in the executive branch program areas (BDA, DSD, EEA, HEHS), who must secure a placement before they can become a full-fledged fellow.

Q: Does AAAS pay travel costs for finalist interviews?
Yes. Executive branch fellowship finalists are invited to Washington, DC, for placement interviews with participating host agencies in April. Documented transportation, lodging, food and other standard business travel costs are covered, for finalists traveling from either a domestic or international location.

Q: After the interviews, if I am selected as a finalist, do I have a voice in where I am placed?
Yes. Placements are made upon the mutual agreement of the host office, the finalist, and AAAS. 

Q: How is the placement process organized?
Executive branch fellowships:
Finalists travel to Washington, DC in April for a full week of placement interviews with participating host agencies. Finalists must be present in Washington for these placement interviews in order to become a fellow. Following the week of placement interviews, finalists and host offices submit their rank-ordered list of preferences to their AAAS program manager. The program manager extends placement offers to the finalists on behalf of the host offices.

Congressional fellowships: Congressional fellows go through their placement process in September, following the orientation program.

Judicial and Revelle fellowships: Because the judicial and Revelle program areas are smaller, there is more flexibility in when those fellows go through their placement process, but typically it takes place in the spring.

All fellowships: The fellowship is formalized with a written notification of a fellowship from STPF to the finalist, specifying the terms of the fellowship, along with an agreement form that lays out policies and procedures governing the fellowship. Once the finalist signs and returns these documents, he or she becomes part of the upcoming class of AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows.

Q: If awarded a fellowship, how do I prepare for the experience?
In early September, STPF organizes a comprehensive two-week orientation program for new fellows, which focuses on the workings of the federal government and the policy process. During the summer before the start of the orientation, the STPF provides a variety of resources to help fellows prepare for their year in Washington, DC.

Q: What is the duration of the STPF Fellowships?
STPF fellowships are 12-month learning experiences beginning on September 1 and ending on August 31. Individuals accepting a fellowship offer must sign an agreement acknowledging this year-long commitment. Many Executive branch placements offer a renewal of up to one year, at the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and AAAS. Second year renewals are not guaranteed and are contingent upon the availability of funding.

Q: Are the STPF Fellowships available every year?
The STPF Fellowships have been operating annually since 1973. The number and size of the fellowship program areas has changed over the years and continues to evolve. Over the 40+ years of its existence, the program has grown from 7 fellows serving in the U.S. Congress, to more than 275 fellows serving in 15 federal agencies, Congress, and the Judicial branch.

Q: May I opt for a shorter fellowship?
No. The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships are available only as a 12-month commitment in the first year of an assignment. However, second year assignments may be for shorter durations at the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and AAAS.

Q: Where are STPF Fellowships served?
All STPF fellows are based in Washington, DC in the first year of the fellowship. Upon the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and AAAS, fellows may be based outside Washington, DC, during a renewal year. Alumni fellowships are in various locations around the globe.

Q: Who funds the fellowships?
The agencies and offices where STPF fellows are placed fund the great majority of the fellowships in the Executive branch. The Congressional Science & Engineering Fellowships™ are funded by the sponsoring scientific and engineering societies that recruit and select those fellows.

Q: What impact has the STPF fellowships had on the career paths of former fellows?
In the year immediately following their fellowship, 40-50% of the fellows continue working in the policy realm (not necessarily in government positions); 20-25% return to the sector in which they worked previously; and another 20-25% use the experience as a stepping stone to a new opportunity. Click here to read about AAAS Fellows' perspectives on their experiences.