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S&T Policy Fellows Celebrate 40 Years

S&T Policy Fellows Celebrate 40 Years

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Growing impact. The 2012–2013 class of Fellows is the largest yet for the influential AAAS program. 
CREDIT: AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships

In 1973, the first class of AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows was dispatched to Washington, D.C. The seven select scientists and engineers were the vanguard of a movement that, four decades later, has grown to more than 2500 researchers who provide unmatched expertise to address public science issues.

“Scientists are trained to be able to quantify uncertainty,” said Jessica Tuchman Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a member of the 1973 class. “And since that’s so much of what Congress has to do, it’s an incredibly valuable set of skills.”

In a series of interviews conducted to commemorate the program’s 40th anniversary, Mathews and other top-level alumni said the Fellowships have had a dramatic effect on their careers. [Watch all of the 40th-anniversary interviews at www.aaas.org/go/fellowsvideo.] They also feel that the program has had a transformative impact on U.S. and global science policy.

In recent years, S&T Fellows have helped to set up a digital library for Iraqi scientists, provided key data to support the Endangered Species Act, contributed to a federal task force on global climate change adaptation, and worked on recovery and reconstruction projects in Haiti just weeks after the country’s devastating January 2010 earthquake.

The Fellows’ work has been good for science in many ways, said Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant U.S. secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, and a 1985–86 Diplomacy Fellow. “As scientists became more informed of budget processes and other things, I think they became more active about championing investments in research and development.”

“One of the exciting things about the program,” agreed Fellowships Director Cynthia Robinson, “is that all of those individuals have taken the experience they’ve had in Washington D.C. … to engage in the work that they’ve done throughout the rest of their careers.”