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2023 in Review: Greetings from the Director

A holiday photo of STPF staff in front of the AAAS building.
A holiday photo of STPF staff – at least the ones we could wrangle before the Thanksgiving holiday! | STPF

As night falls earlier, the air gets crispier, and 2023 draws to a close, now is a very good time to reflect on and honor all the things that went down, went up, and those that went all around.  

This year was nothing short of gigantic for STPF, the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program: we turned 50(!). From seven scientists and engineers in the first cohort of fellows back in 1973, we now host about 300 each year. We kicked off our 50th anniversary year with a host of activities at the 2023 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington. The anniversary gala featured four past STPF directors, four 20-foot interactive displays featuring a timeline of significant points in STPF history, and four artworks commissioned to represent major scientific advances over the past half century. We also launched a video walkthrough of 50 years of impact as well as a series of short videos from STPF alumni and key figures in its history with stories and personal insights into science and policy.   

Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued the festivities and hosted a cake and champagne reception in recognition of 40 years of hosting fellows at the Department of State. State hosts more than 50 fellows each year and over 100 STPF alumni remain on staff at the State Department. 

In September, we welcomed to Washington 276 scientists and engineers in the 51st class of fellows. The icing on this cake was that this class introduced the first-ever Rapid Response Cohort in AI (artificial intelligence). Six fellows with expertise in AI are now in Congress to help provide expertise and guidance on pressing issues such as AI ethics, information integrity, intellectual property, human rights and algorithmic risk. The new cohort felt like it was “built in a day.” In just a matter of weeks, STPF was able to bring together the support and a talented pool of applicants by activating partners, scientific societies, industry colleagues and our valued networks. 

While listing every single accomplishment is near impossible for me, I will attempt to highlight the big ones here:  

  • The STPF class of 2023-24 dove into an in-depth orientation in September: 7 days; 180 fellows; 58 sessions; 65 speakers; 55 discussion topics created, 3,060 messages posted, and 1,300 one-to-one messages exchanged in the Whova conference app. 

  • Through a new partnership with ClimateWorks, there are now 10 (count them all -- ten!) legislative branch fellows, including one focused on climate science and six with AI expertise.  

  • New this year is placement office Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H), where three fellows are now working on health innovation research projects.  

  • STPF and its fellows were featured in approximately 40 media stories.  

  • We launched the pilot year of the formal STPF Alumni Network, with planned regional gatherings in Denver, Portland, Atlanta, and San Francisco. 

  • We launched a bi-monthly newsletter for alumni, Alumni Focus. Please reach out to the AE director if you are not receiving these. 

  • To help guide fellows and ensure an optimal fellowship experience, our program managers conducted hundreds of site visits (in person and virtual meetings) with fellows and their host office mentors.  

  • We hosted “Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Washington: What’s the Latest and Who Are the Players?” -- a panel discussion featuring a former congressperson and a retired general. This is the first in a series of upcoming learning events about issues in AI.  

  • We stand on the strength and expertise of fellows, partner societies, host agencies and of course, staff. This year we welcomed to the tight-knit STPF fold: Xavier Cross (finance), Kanan Patel (recruitment), Mehrab Sarwar (recruitment), Karen Smith (finance) and Arthur Tartee (professional development). And we bade a fond farewell to Ryan Gallasch (programs) and Kat Song (communications). 

In a nutshell, it was a deeply engaging and growth-oriented year, and I sincerely wish you all warm holidays and a new year full of and learning and wonder! 

- Rashada Alexander, STPF Director 

P.S. I’m reading your mind: you’re wondering how you can help ensure a robust future for the STPF mission to connect science with policy and foster a network of science and engineering leaders who are equipped to develop and execute solutions to address societal challenges: one way is to make a contribution here. Thank you! 


Rashada Alexander


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