Fellowships Advisory Committee Fall 2012 Minutes
October 2012 Fellowships Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes
Date/Time: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 2:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: AAAS, 1200 New York Ave, NW, Washington, DC, Revelle Room
Members Present: Diane Berry (via conference call), Julie Callahan*, Dan Deckler*, Greg Downing, Anish Goel, Elizabeth Grossman*, Sharon Hays*, Apriel Hodari*, Ken Ludwa*, Steve Nelson, Brad Strickland, Jeff Urbach, Bill Valdez, Dorit Zuk (Chair)
Members Absent: Dawn Thomas
Fellowships Staff: Erin Hammer, Robert Harper, Rick Kempinski, Tamisha Marsh, Cynthia Robinson, Sage Russell
1) Welcome & Introductions
Chair Dorit Zuk opened the meeting and welcomed committee members and thanked the six new members for agreeing to serve. The Committee voted unanimously to approve the June 2012 meeting minutes.
2) Updates on 2012-13 Class
a. 2012-13 Class Demographics, Placement and New Initiative
Demographics and Placement Data: Data was presented via Power Point on the demographic makeup of the 2012-13 Fellowship class (gender, age range, culture/ethnicity, disciplines – see 10/16/12 PP presentation on FAC website). This is once again the largest class to date, with 279 Fellows. The program has seen a 93% growth in the last 8 years, with 60% of that growth since the administration change in 2009. The majority of growth has been in the executive branch. This may in part be a testament to an administration that actively promotes S&T as critical to addressing societal challenges. It is also likely influenced by the challenging economy and the fact that some Fellows are finding it difficult to find jobs and therefore are renewing in larger numbers.
Once again, placements did not meet demand in the Executive Branch. Despite a record number of finalists, some offices did not receive Fellows. The program has experienced growth in all program areas, but most significantly in the Diplomacy, Security and Development (DSD) Program (see data on PP slides). In the executive branch, USAID is once again hosting the largest cohort of Fellows.
In Congress, 30 of 34 Fellows have been placed to date, including several new offices. So far five are in Republican offices or committees, two in Independent offices, and the remaining 23 placed are in Democratic offices and committees.
New Initiative: This is the pilot year for the Global Health and Development (GHD) Fellowships at the Gates Foundation in Seattle. These opportunities are open only to former Fellows, after completing at least one year of the core DC-based fellowship program. This is a first for placing Fellows outside of the federal government. There are two GHD Fellows.
Other firsts in 2012-13 include: the first AAAS Fellow who is an alumnus of the California S&T Policy Fellowships Program; the first former AAAS Fellowships staff member who is now a Fellow; and the first AAAS and Jefferson Fellowship alumni currently serving in each other’s programs.
b. Challenges of Larger Classes
Staffing: Record-setting classes require more staff to ensure high quality operations, support, and services for Fellows and host offices. And, to maintain quality recruiting and outreach efforts, selection and placement processes, monitoring fellowship activities, evaluation and reporting to funders.
To address this, a new program associate position has been added. Erin Hammer has been promoted into this new post to oversee administrative and logistical processes related to selection and placement, and annual programmatic operations. In addition, a part-time Project Director/Facility Security Officer position was created to ensure a dedicated staff member working on security clearances for US AID Fellows. Former staff member Chris McPhaul had rejoined the team in this post, balancing out his time supplementing on finances, grant management, and professional development programming as needed.
Balance: A balance of host agencies and assignments across the program areas is important for operational stability. Just a few agencies hosting large numbers of Fellows is untenable if there were to be a deep decline in hosting at one of those agencies in a specific year without compensating increases at other agencies.
To address this, the Fellowships staff is striving to expand placement opportunities in agencies that currently host five or fewer fellows. And, to engage new agencies to host fellows. The latter is especially important in the HEHS program are, where there are currently only three hosting agencies (HHS, NIH, NSF). Opportunities are being pursued at the Department of Education and at the Food and Drug Administration. AAAS is also interested in developing placements at the Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Labor, and the Trade and Patent Office.
Connection: In larger classes it is more difficult to network broadly and feel a sense of connection to the overall cohort. In response, to allow more opportunities to meet, professional development programming has expanded. Also, creating and maintaining affinity groups focused on topical S&T and policy issues is encouraged and supported. AAAS provides space for meetings, and limited funding to support speakers and other activities. There are approximately 10 active affinity groups in the current class.
3) Challenges and Opportunities
a. Early Departures
This discussion, initiated at the June 2012 meeting, was continued briefly. Staff presented the challenges and concerns about increasing numbers of renewal Fellows leaving early in their second year to pursue permanent employment. In the past this happened rarely. AAAS is also now experiencing larger numbers of current and former Fellows reapplying for an additional fellowship program. This is a new phenomenon that appears to coincide with a tough economy. In several cases these individuals have departed before completing the first year. It seems that some Fellows are using the renewal option, or a second fellowship, as a placeholder and salary support until they find the job rather than focusing on the additional opportunities for contribution and professional development that renewals and second fellowships are meant to provide.
Early withdrawals leave host offices without expected expertise and support (which had been committed in writing via fellowship agreement forms). In many cases the federal dollars designated for fellowship slots cannot be returned or reallocated. This can cause frustration for host offices, tension in AAAS-host office relationships, and negative perceptions of the program and Fellows. It also means that interview slots and placement opportunities have been denied to deserving fellowship candidates who would have been a benefit to host offices, gained from the opportunity, and would have enhanced the fellowship network.
This issue of second fellowships is being addressed, in part, by emphasizing to Fellows that they must make a clear and compelling case in a reapplication that they will contribute and gain in new and different ways in a second fellowship. And, they must articulate how a second opportunity will support specific future goals. This “higher bar” will also be highlighted to selection committees so that it is taken into greater consideration when assessing current and alumni fellows in the applicant pool.
Action: As noted at the June 2012 meeting, data on the frequency and causes of early departures over the past few years would support the FAC to provide informed recommendations on options to stem the early departure issue.
b. Potential New Partnerships and Programs
Expansion to OMB, DOJ or Judicial Branch
The Moore Foundation has provided funding for one fellowship slot to be supported at either OMB, the Department of Justice, or the judicial branch. While an exciting opportunity, AAAS must explore how to create a sustainable initiative. Additional funding will be needed to ensure a stable program from the start. One possibility with the Judicial Branch is to pursue partnership with the Supreme Court Fellowship Program.
The World Bank has approached AAAS about creating a fellowship program similar to the GHD Fellowships at the Gates Foundation, to be conducted at the World Bank in Washington DC. AAAS has established some guidelines for such fellowships going forward, including the following:
Continued focus on the intersection of science and policy (i.e. not research fellowships or solely program management)
Eligibility consistent with S&T Policy Fellowship requirements (with the exception of the U.S. citizenship requirement)
Stipend levels consistent with the S&T Policy Fellowships (e.g. avoid creating programs that would set up a lower level stipend for the same eligibility expectations)
Commitment of funding for a minimum of two fellowship slots, and preferably five or more
Structures that present a reasonable cost-benefit ratio on investment of staff time to number of fellowships
ACTION: 1) AAAS will continue exploration on the new fellowship area and with the World Bank and will update the FAC at the next meeting.
4) Vision-Mission Statement
The committee was presented with a draft of the vision-mission statement that was produced following two meetings and rounds of input from the vision-mission ad hoc working group. The statement includes a section outlining vision-mission, followed by a section focusing on results. The statement strives to balance the public service and professional development aspects of the S&T Policy Fellowships, with an emphasis on long-term societal outcomes.
Opinion was divided on the value of a separate results section. There was some back and forth on perceptions of and preferences for specific words. However, in general there was consensus that the statement as presented is on the right track and is close to final with some minor editing.
ACTION: 1) Cynthia will draft a third statement and present it to the ad hoc working group for review.
2) The ad-hoc group (Dorit, Jeff, Brad, and Sonya Sobrian, from the 2011-12 FAC who remains engaged on this project) will meet again to finalize a statement to be presented to the committee at the spring meeting.
5) Policy and Documents Annual Review
Going forward, the FAC will be asked annually to review and provide input to a set of policy and expectations documents for Fellows:
The FAC will also review annually the following documents for partner societies:
Partnership Agreement Form
Below is a summary of input provided on the documents.
a) Policy Document for Fellows:
Fellows’ Agreement Form: This document was inadvertently left out of the packet of documents. It will be sent with the minutes and will be reviewed at the spring meeting.
Expectations Summary: Some FAC members viewed several of the items listed as guidelines rather than expectations, and suggested that separating the two would be preferable. Other FAC members expressed the importance of clarifying specific expected actions in writing, whether guidelines or expectations.
Discussion ensued around the length of the document. It was commented that moving away from a chronological structure might provide brevity. Instead, it might be reorganized to highlight the most important items (what Fellows must do), followed by the more general behavioral expectations (what Fellows should do).
Several committee members felt that the inclusion of statements on professional behavior is inappropriate for the career level of S&T Policy Fellows, and that the tone may be alienating. Other members, particularly those representing sponsoring societies and agencies, felt that, although somewhat dogmatic, there is value in reminding Fellows of the full spectrum of expectations.
Partner society representatives and some host office representatives noted that their offices also provide Fellows with an expectations document, including deadlines for securing placement, free agent concerns, and ethics guidelines.
Leave Statement: The Fellowships Statement on Annual Leave provides guidelines on expectations for hours and time off, emphasizing a “reasonableness” approach for the latter. Recently, there have been concerns about the equity and transparency of this policy, due to agencies/supervisors supporting different leave benefits and practices, such as the provisions of maternity leave. While fellows under temporary federal employment arrangements are awarded full government employee benefits, including the ability to accrue leave, AAAS cannot force offices of “stipend fellows,” including those funded through 3rd party entities, to accept our guidelines.
Committee members offered several suggestions, with partner society representatives noting that they stipulate that offices provide paid leave in their hosting agreements, which are shared with the fellow. This is only possible, however, because the partner society is paying the fellow’s stipend, not the agencies themselves. Other suggestions included:
Adjusting funding agreements to reflect pay for 50 weeks instead of 52, giving fellows at least the guarantee of unpaid leave
Having AAAS cover two weeks of each fellow’s stipend to allow for paid leave, though this raised concerns about how to fund those stipends
In the end, the committee recommended that AAAS share these guidelines with the host offices and encourage individual supervisors to stipulate their leave policies during the fellow’s onboarding process at the agency.
Fellowship Completion Guidelines: These outline the process and protocol for successfully completing a fellowship, including early departure, voluntary withdrawal, leave of absence, and early hire by agency or office. In addition, it reminds fellows of their commitment to a 12-month placement and the broader impact their decision to leave a fellowship early may have on their host offices, the relationship between AAAS and the offices, and their status as an alumni Fellow in good standing.
Committee members initially focused on the purpose of this document. Some felt the wording came across as harsh. Others felt that if the purpose is to deter early departures or withdrawal from the program then the document is not worded strongly enough. For example, it appeals more to a fellow’s sense of community and integrity and less onthe repercussions for failing to comply with the guidelines. It was suggested to revise the document to highlight that fellows who do not wrap-up in good standing will not be eligible for future opportunities at the Gates Foundation or the US AID Overseas Fellowships. It also was recommended to emphasize the those who do not wrap-up in good standing will forfeit the ability to utilize the Fellows network, directory and listservs for job openings, collaboration opportunities, and references.
The discussion then shifted to possible deterrents to fellows leaving early or not following guidelines. Suggestions included pursuing a refund of fellowship stipend or relocation, as the California S&T Policy Fellowships does for early departures. The ability to refund an office relies on the funding mechanism used to support each particular fellow, and even if AAAS received returned funds from a fellow it may not be possible to reimburse the office.
Often when fellows leave assignments early it is with the support of the host office supervisors; they realize that permanent positions are important. Supervisors of fellows under the temporary federal employment mechanism in particular, may encourage their fellows to begin looking for new positions in May of the fellowship year if they are not able to secure full-time permanent positions for them in their offices.
Overall, there was consensus that the guidelines provide flexibility for fellows to depart early while maintaining their good standing status if they provide proper notification and submit all required reports. The committee encouraged Fellowships staff to provide positive guidance with this document, continuing to outline the appropriate steps to leave a fellowship early and highlighting the consequences for failing to do so.
b) Operations Policy Documents
Stipend Comparison Chart: This conversation was tabled to the spring meeting due to time constraints.
c) Partner Society Policy Documents
Partnership Agreement Form: A partner society representative on the committee noted that the agreement form does not yet reflect changes made to the ‘free agency’ clause. It was agreed that executive branch fellows sponsored by partner societies are free agents within reason, i.e., their office placements must be relevant to the interests and goals of the sponsoring society.
Members also discussed whether AAAS should require partner societies to engage or remain involved with their fellows post-fellowship. Sponsoring organization vary greatly in the degrees to which they engage with their fellows, during and after the fellowship year. While it seems obvious that it would be in a society’s best interest to capitalize on their investment, it was agreed that AAAS should encourage but not mandate this involvement.
ACTION: 1) The agreement form will be revised with the change regarding free agency for executive branch fellowships.
Partnership Criteria: The Partnership Evaluation Guidelines were created to assist the advisory committee in determining whether or not to accept scientific and engineering societies as sponsoring partners in the Congressional Fellowships program. In attempting to balance program portfolios, it has become apparent that growth has been stagnant in the Congressional program area. Fellowships staff are therefore making a concentrated effort to recruit additional partner societies to enhance those numbers, alongside growth in other program areas. One suggestion is to amend the criteria to be able to include entities such as university or lab consortia, or multi-society sponsorships. Another was to redefine what we consider ‘scientific and engineering societies’ to include organizations like the American Cancer Society.
One committee member recommended focusing outreach on larger societies, like the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), rather than marginal groups like the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and others being considered. The challenge with large societies like SfN, to whom Fellowships staff have been reaching out for years, is that they often have their own government relations office that they feel meets their needs for representation on Capitol Hill. Committee members also suggested reaching out to inactive societies to encourage them to re-engage with the program, or partner with other like-minded organizations to fund a Fellow.
In discussing changes to the current criteria, committee members questioned whether AAAS should include any language about partner societies’ policy interests, stances, or political affiliations, to ensure that they are in line with AAAS’s publicly stated positions. It was decided that AAAS should not attempt to engage at this level and should remain non-partisan; focusing instead on a society’s content and types of activities.
Lastly, the committee discussed whether or not to include a mandate that each partner society sponsor at least one Congressional Fellow before expanding into sponsorship of executive branch Fellows. Recently, one society was approved for membership based on an Executive Branch Fellowship and it was assumed by Fellowships staff that they would phase in a Congressional Fellow. They have not, but with no written policy in place it is difficult to push them to do so now. Therefore, Fellowships staff propose amending the criteria to stipulate that partner societies may sponsor executive branch fellows under the S&T Policy Fellowships umbrella only if they also sponsoring at least one Congressional Fellow. There was consensus to support this, but no vote was taken.
6) Partnership Application from Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME)
Fellowships staff received an application from SME, which in general meets the criteria as a scientific or engineering society. Materials were presented to the advisory committee for their input and determination.
The committee commented that only 41% of SME’s membership hold graduate degrees at the master’s or doctoral level, and that the criteria clearly state that a significant portion of an applicant’s membership must hold the terminal degree. Concerns were also raised about what types of master’s degrees SME members hold, and the lack of clarity around whether they are outright engineering or ‘engineering-ish’, such as degrees in mining or engineering technology.
One committee member advised that only degrees from ABET-accredited (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) programs should be considered eligible, for both partner society and Fellowship applicants.
Committee members questioned whether or not SME meets the criteria in other ways, as well, including the publication of peer-reviewed journals and funding for research projects or major scientific or engineering conferences. While SME does publish and circulate four publications, it was not clear to the committee if the articles were produced or funded by SME, or merely compiled for distribution. Other members questioned whether this distinction was relevant. A few members noted that it is not uncommon for engineering societies, such as ASHRAE, who are already partner societies, to lack a research arm. As with ASHRAE, SME and other engineering societies tend to be more application-oriented, rather than scholarly. Engineering societies do not usually fund research, but may sponsor conferences where research is presented.
It was agreed that more information is required to determine whether SME meets partner society eligibility criteria. AAAS will solicit the following from SME:
What percentage of SME’s master’s degree membership hold their degrees in engineering?
What other master’s degrees do SME members hold, and what percentage are awarded from ABET- accredited programs?
Does SME produce their peer reviewed articles and journals, or simply compile and distribute them?
Does SME sponsor any large engineering conference where research is presented?
Action: 1) Staff will follow-up with SME to collect the information.
2) Daniel Deckler will review the SME publications and provide an opinion on their merit as meeting the criteria for rigorous scientific/technical publications
3) FAC will review the updated SME application and input from Daniel at the spring meeting.
8) Upcoming Events and Spring Meeting
AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston, 14-18 February 2013
Placement Reception, 16 April 2013
2013 S&T Policy Forum, 2-3 May 2013
40th Anniversary Commemoration Event, 3 May 2013, 6:00-9:00pm
It was agreed that the spring FAC meeting will be held on 1 May 2013, from 2:30-5:00. It will be followed by a one-hour networking session.