Fellowships Advisory Committee Fall 2013 Minutes

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Date/Time: Wednesday 23 October 2013; 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: AAAS, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC; Revelle Conference Room
Members Present: Julie Callahan, Joanne Carey, Elizabeth L. Grossman, Apriel Hodari, Kei Koizumi, Sam Rankin, Brad Strickland, Jeffrey Urbach, Dorit Zuk
Members Calling in: Anish Goel, Bo Hammer, Emily Hogue, Bill Valdez
Members Absent: Diane Berry, Daniel Deckler, Greg Downing, Sharon Hays, Heather Kelly
Fellowships Staff: Kristin Barnes, Eddie Gonzalez, Rick Kempinski, Kristina Lawrence, Cynthia Robinson, Sage Russell


I. Welcome and Introductions

Chair Dorit Zuk opened the meeting and welcomed committee members. She acknowledged and thanked the three newest members who joined in this 2013-14 fellowship year: Joanne Carney of AAAS, Phillip “Bo” Hammer of the American Physical Society (APS), and Emily Hogue at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

II. Committee Administration

The Committee voted unanimously to approve the May 2013 meeting minutes as presented.

III. Updates

a. 2013-14 Class Demographics and Placement Data: Data was presented via Power Point on the demographic makeup of the 2013-14 fellowship class (gender, age range, culture/ethnicity, disciplines; see PP presentation on FAC website). A large number of fellows – nearly 50% -- received their qualifying doctoral or engineering master’s degree within the past five years. Although class size remained nearly constant at 275 fellows (compared to a starting size of 279 in 2012-13), in the past few years the number of new Year 1 fellows has declined. It is the larger number of renewal fellows causing the increases. Staff noted, anecdotally, that the number of finalists declining fellowship offers in favor of permanent positions seemed to increase this past year. It is speculated this is due to the challenging economic situation. The same factor is likely influencing fellows renewing in larger numbers.

The culture/ethnic diversity statistics remain positive and better than the latest NSF national data on individuals holding STEM doctoral degrees (note: fellowship applicants are able to select more than one ethnic background). The gender breakdown is opposite of the most recent statistics available from NSF, with a much higher percentage of women now in the AAAS Fellowships (65%) than men (35%).

The diversity among disciplines remained similar to last year and the historic data, with most of the fellows coming from the biological/life sciences. Cynthia noted that more offices are requesting fellows with specific disciplinary backgrounds than in the past, when many offices focused more on broad scientific/technical training than discipline. This is viewed to be due to tighter budgets mandating stronger rationale for selection of fellows, and a drive to ensure a match of background and skill to host office mission, mandate and need.

Several committee members commented on the need for more social scientists and those with computer science backgrounds. Cynthia noted that both disciplines as well as engineers are ongoing targets for strategic outreach efforts.

Placement efforts spanned both the executive and congressional branches of government. In the executive branch, USAID remains the top hosting agency with 67 fellows, including 11 serving in overseas missions

On the congressional side, outreach resulted in interest expressed from more than 75 offices. Seven Members of Congress spoke at the placement reception. All except one January-start fellow has secured a placement. The current tally includes seven placements in Republican offices. Some congressional offices secured multiple fellows while others did not receive any, which has caused some frustration. AAAS will explore this issue and report its findings and recommendations in the spring. Overall, the distribution of placements across congressional offices is improving, and assignments continue to provide engaging opportunities for fellows.

ACTION: Fellowships staff will provide statistics on class growth over time at the winter meeting.
ACTION: Fellowships staff will explore whether there is a trend of multiple fellows being hosted by the same congressional offices, and the pros and cons of the issue, and will report at the spring meeting.

b. Recruitment and Outreach: Cynthia presented an outline of the outreach and recruitment efforts over the past year (see PP presentation on FAC Website). The introduction of the earlier November 1st deadline meant that some potential applicants were not finished with their doctoral requirements and therefore not eligible. However, compared to the same time frame last year, applicants and application numbers remained approximately the same.

ACTION: Fellowships staff will provide final application data at the winter meeting.

c. Government Shutdown: The 16-day government shutdown proved time consuming for Fellowships staff striving to interpret different rules and regulations and dealing with lack of guidance from some agencies. Overall, the majority of the fellows were not negatively impacted.

IV. Partner Society Applications

a. Acoustical Society of America (ASA): The committee asked about the impetus for the formal application since ASA has been a partner and co-sponsor with the American Institutes of Physics (AIP) for several years. Currently, ASA is not listed on the AAAS website as a partner because it never submitted an application. ASA is seeking acknowledgment of its role and therefore has applied to formalize a partnership with AAAS. The application was approved with affirmative votes from the committee members present, with the exception of Bo Hammer, who works with AIP and therefore abstained.

b. Society for Automotive Engineers (SAE) International: SAE participated in good standing under the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships umbrella in the past. However, as per the AAAS policy, because SAE has not hosted a fellow for a period of more than five years it is considered inactive and was removed from the AAAS partner roster. SAE is required to reapply for partnership to continue hosting fellows in collaboration with AAAS.

Along with the application, past performance suggests that SAE will continue to be a good partner. The society maintains scientific research, publishing and convening activities that demonstrate its qualifications. The small number of SAE members holding a doctorate or masters in engineering was brought up; however, there was consensus that this is not a disqualifying factor. SAE has agreed to follow the applicant eligibility requirements of AAAS. Based on this information, the committee members present approved the application (Emily Hogue was no longer on conference call at that time and therefore did not vote).

V. Upcoming Events and Winter Meeting

a. 40th Anniversary Events: Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness, will be the final speaker in the 40th Anniversary Distinguished Speaker Series, on Tuesday, 12/16. Advisory Committee members are encouraged to attend.

b. AAAS Annual Meeting: The 2014 annual meeting will take place February 13-17 in Chicago, IL. The Fellowships Program will host an outreach booth and will hold its annual networking reception on Saturday evening, 2/15. Symposia and sessions featuring fellows will be promoted. Announcements will be sent to the Advisory Committee.

c. Winter Meeting: The next meeting will be held in late-January or early-February. AAAS will follow-up with dates. The main agenda items will be to discuss the 2014-15 application results and plans for future outreach, and adjustments to the professional development programming. It is anticipated that there may also be more partner society applications to review.