WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has conceived of and launched a new artificial intelligence (AI) fellowship in just two months — record speed — to support leaders in Congress as they craft legislation, in particular policies related to emerging opportunities and challenges with AI. Capitol Hill’s surging interest in AI policy follows the public release of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools.
The STPF Rapid Response Cohort in AI operates under the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships (STPF) program and is part of the 51st class of 276 scientists and engineers placed across all branches of the federal government who just kicked off their assignments. The AI cohort is comprised of six scientists who will serve as expert staff in a congressional office or committee with most starting their yearlong placements this week to provide guidance on pressing issues such as AI ethics, information integrity, intellectual property, human rights and algorithmic risk.
“We have been running the STPF program for half a century, and this is the first time we have been able to bring the support and a talented pool of applicants together in such a short timeframe. It took activating partners, scientific societies, industry colleagues and our networks to attract promising candidates and make this program a reality,” said Rashada Alexander, Ph.D., STPF director at AAAS. “Thanks to broad-base support, legislators can now more easily access AI-specific scientific and technical expertise as they explore policy options.”
The AI fellows were selected for their expertise and proficiency on the complexities of developing and deploying a multitude of AI technologies. They will help policymakers and their staff understand conceptually how AI works, along with the technical, economic and social issues that may arise from its widespread deployment. The AI fellows had two weeks to apply and two more weeks to wrap up their personal and professional lives — and, in most cases, move their households to Washington, D.C.
“The sudden explosion in generative AI affects every aspect of policy, from national security, workforce, and health care to intellectual property, education and transportation,” said Craig Mundie, former chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, who conceived of this new fellowship cohort program with AAAS. “We are entering a transformational era in human history that requires informed policymakers who understand the potential implications of AI on society.”
Placements for the 2023-24 STPF Rapid Response Cohort in AI include:
- U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs: Serena Booth, Ph.D., Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior positions: Visiting researcher at the University of Texas at Austin and product manager at Google.
- The committee scrutinizes AI, algorithms and other emerging technologies, which may be used in the banking, housing and investment fields.
- Office of Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.): Soribel Feliz, M.S., Public Administration and Economics, Syracuse University. Prior positions: Microsoft, Meta and the U.S. Department of State.
- Sen. Cassidy is a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, which will cover AI impacts in health care, privacy, education and the workplace.
- Office of Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.): Cynthia Lee, Ph.D., Computer Science, University of California San Diego. Prior position: Faculty, Computer Science Department, Stanford University; has also served as an expert witness.
- Sen. Heinrich is co-chair of the Senate AI Caucus.
- Office of Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.): Kiri Wagstaff, Ph.D., Computer Science, Cornell University. Prior position: Faculty, Oregon State University, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- Sen. Kelly is a member of the Senate AI Caucus.
- Office of Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.): Rebecca Voglewede, Ph.D., Neuroscience, Tulane University. Prior position: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health.
- Sen. Rounds is co-chair of the Senate AI Caucus.
- Office of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): Eoghan Stafford, Ph.D., Political Science, University of California Los Angeles. Prior position: Centre for the Governance of AI (United Kingdom); researcher focused on the intersection of data science and human rights, democracy and international conflict.
- Sen. Wyden is focused on privacy, cybersecurity and other related issues to understand potentially abusive practices and advance national policy to prevent misuse.
“I am pleased to welcome Dr. Cynthia Bailey Lee to my team as a new AAAS fellow. Cynthia brings a wealth of computer science expertise, particularly in the area of artificial intelligence. She will be an important part of my team as the Senate continues to determine how best to govern AI,” said Sen. Heinrich.
Sen. Wyden added: “Eoghan's expertise on the intersection of AI and international human rights and free speech will provide a valuable new perspective to my office's work on those pressing issues. I look forward to Eoghan joining our team and contributing to the vital conversation about how to defend those core values in the face of rapid technological advancements.”
AAAS administers the STPF program, including the new AI cohort, and provides professional development throughout a fellow’s term. The selection process for STPF fellows is nonpartisan, and the fellows interview with host offices — personal offices and congressional committees — prior to making their final decisions. Of the 276 scientists and engineers in the 2023-24 STPF class, 38 are serving in Congress, one is serving at the Federal Judicial Center, and 237 are serving in the executive branch across 19 federal agencies or departments.
“These exceptional technology experts answered the call to help shape the future of AI. They will inform policy that enables the greatest AI advancements while ensuring benefits for all,” said Sudip S. Parikh, Ph.D., chief executive officer of AAAS. “As AAAS turns 175 and strives to ignite progress for the next two centuries, agile programs that provide timely expertise for urgent policy matters will be crucial — AI is just the beginning.”
AAAS received more than 130 applications for the AI cohort program from a wide range of scientists and engineers with AI-relevant expertise, who recognized the rare opportunity to serve in Congress during a pivotal time in the public policy landscape. The new AI fellowship class is sponsored by a funding consortium of foundations, corporations and individuals who recognize the need for AI technical expertise on Capitol Hill. For more information on the STPF program, visit this page.