In the early 1970s, science-related issues emerged at the center of public debate and at the top of the U.S. political agenda: water and air pollution, energy and nuclear power, the future of the space program. And yet leaders in the U.S. science community, including some at AAAS, realized that Congress and other policy agencies lacked the scientific expertise that would be essential in addressing these issues.
To fill the need, they established the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships, and in 1973, seven select scientists and engineers—the first class of Fellows—were dispatched to congressional offices. Over the next four decades, each new year brought a new and bigger class of Fellows. As the years have passed, alumni have risen to high-impact positions in Congress, the White House, the State Department, federal agencies, research universities, and non-governmental organizations.
In a new video from the AAAS Office of Public Programs, former Fellows recall the early years of the program, its growth and expanding influence, how the experience changed their careers, and how they’ve helped to shape U.S. and global science policy.
Alumni appearing in the video:
- Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a member of the inaugural class;
- U.S. Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey;
- Arati Prabhakar, director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA);
- Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant U.S. secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs;
- E. William Colglazier, science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State;
- Gordon Day, president and CEO, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE);
- Wyoming State Senator Chris Rothfuss, who also holds a faculty appointment at the University of Wyoming; and
- Ellen Bergfeld, CEO of the Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies and related U.S. agricultural organizations.
What emerges in the interviews is that the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships have succeeded in their mission: By providing top-quality expertise, they have transformed the U.S. science policy apparatus, and the impact has extended around the world. But the policy experience has brought great benefits to U.S. science, as well.
Just as the Fellowships impart scientific expertise to the policy process, they also enrich the research enterprise “by bringing a political savvy back to the professions,” said Congressman Holt. “And that’s an unbeatable combination.”
Fellowships Director Cynthia Robinson said the 40th anniversary will be celebrated with special events, including a speaker series, acknowledgements, new online resources, an art exhibit, and a commemoration.
Read more about the impact of former AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows over four decades of work in Washington, D.C., and across the United States.
Learn about the special events planned to celebrate the Fellowships’ 40th anniversary.