U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), a former research physicist, introduced into the U.S. House a resolution, H.Con.Res. 76,  to honor the 40th anniversary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy Fellowships program.
“I owe a great debt to the AAAS Fellows program,” said Holt, who was a AAAS Fellow in 1982 and has hosted many fellows in his own Congressional office. “The program changed my own life, changed the United States Congress, and changed our nation’s science policy immeasurably for the better.”
Forty years ago, in 1973, Congress hosted the first AAAS Congressional Science & Engineering Fellows. The program was the first of its kind to provide doctoral level scientists and engineers with an opportunity to learn about policymaking, while bolstering the technical expertise available to Members of Congress.
Since the program’s inception, nearly 100 Congressional offices and committees, as well as the Congressional Research Service, Government Accountability Office, and the former Office of Technology Assessment have hosted nearly 1,200 Congressional Science & Engineering Fellows in the legislative branch. Fellows provide much-needed in-house expertise in the areas of science, technology and engineering, helping Congress to legislate more effectively on public policy issues of a scientific and technical nature.
Holt added, “Many fellows have helped to write or perfect beneficial legislation, and just as importantly, many have helped to divert or stop misguided legislation. But the greatest benefit has been to elevate the discussion about science in the U.S. Congress: to instill a respect for research, a fidelity to facts, and an appreciation of scientific thinking.”
“In the years since the program was launched, the need and call for fellows has grown as the issues that policymakers and regulators grapple with have become increasingly diverse, globalized and entwined,” said Alan I. Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “AAAS is grateful to the sponsoring societies, funders, and Congressional host offices, without which the Science and Technology Policy Fellowships would not exist. On behalf of AAAS and our partner scientific and engineering societies, I extend our gratitude to all of the staff of the legislative and executive branch offices and agencies who have been so generous with their time, energy and input in hosting and mentoring fellows over the years.”
The Science & Technology Policy Fellows are selected through a rigorous process that represents the full range of biological, behavioral and social, computational, earth, health and medical, and physical sciences and engineering. They provide support to the Congressional offices where they work by meeting with constituents and outside groups, analyzing issues, writing speeches and press releases, developing legislation, serving as liaisons to committees, and organizing hearings on legislative issues.
Over four decades, AAAS has partnered with more than 60 professional societies and organizations to sponsor more than 2,600 Science & Technology Policy Fellows in the legislative and executive branch. The outcome is a growing corps of policy-savvy leaders in science and engineering working across sectors to help address societal challenges and serve the nation and citizens around the world.
[adapted from a press release from the office of U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, 16 January, 2014]