STPF Fellows Enhance a Global Scientific Meeting Focused on Public Policy

The AAAS Annual Meeting 2017 convened thousands of scientists, engineers, educators, policymakers and journalists from around the world to discuss developments in science and technology. This year’s theme – Serving Society Through Science Policy – focused on how to inform policies with the best available scientific evidence.

Held in Boston this year, the meeting is the largest and most widely recognized global science gathering where valuable learning, networking and crosspollination happen. It holds great opportunities for students as well: they can present research in the Student Poster Competition, while younger students enjoy Family Science Days, a free science event featuring hands-on activities and demonstrations. 

For S&T Policy Fellows, the Annual Meeting is always a hotbed of opportunity and activity. STPF hosted a session about the fellowship program, a networking event and an exhibit booth. Many fellows and staff spoke with prospective applicants at our booth, while 23 fellows organized or made presentations in a scientific session during the course of the five-day meeting.

Left-right: STPF alumni fellows Brian Carter, Don Engel, Samantha White and Astrid Caldas. | Kat Song/AAAS

Organized and presented entirely by STPF alumni fellows, Science Communication Strategies in Academic, Government, and Non-Profit Sectors was a popular session. “Our session is about communicating across different sectors – university, government, nonprofits – each of which has its own sets of structures, cultures and expectations for how information is presented,” said Don Engel (2006-07 Legislative Branch Fellow sponsored by American Physical Society). Co-organized by Lynn Adams (2011-14 Executive Branch Fellow) and Judy Keen (2012-14 Executive Branch Fellow), the panel also included Astrid Caldas (2013-14 Executive Branch Fellow), Brian Carter (2008-09 Legislative Branch Fellow sponsored by American Chemical Society and 2009-11 Executive Branch Fellow) and Samantha White (2014-16 Executive Branch Fellow).

Joanne Carney, AAAS Office of Government Relations, and Robert Cook-Deegan speak about the Trump Administration. | Kat Song/AAAS

Melinda Gormley speaks at the AAAS Annual Meeting 2017. | Kat Song/AAAS

Robert Cook-Deegan addressed a packed room for Science Policy in Transition: What to Expect in 2017 and Beyond to discuss opportunities and challenges under a new presidential administration. While much of the discussion focused on potential negative effects on the science enterprise, Cook-Deegan commented on the enduring commitment of government employees to adhere to fact-based thinking. “There will be huge swaths of government activity that will be evidence-driven. Most of the power and energy of government is embedded deep in agencies with lots of people who are good at their jobs. Evidence matters.”

Social Responsibility in Science from the Inside Out looked at the social responsibilities of scientists, engineers and health professionals and pressures exerted on them from inside and outside of the science enterprise. “I am a historian – my research explores scientists who were political activists. I spoke about a policy and science debate between two renowned scientists and offered an approach to engaging in policy discussions involving science that is atypical today,” said Melinda Gormley, 2015-16 Executive Branch Fellow. 

A packed room for solo presentation by Josh Henkin. | Kat Song/AAAS

Having worked with the AAAS Office Professional Development and Career Services to develop online courses, Josh Henkin (2004-06 Executive Branch Fellow) was a natural in his solo session, Transitioning into a Non-Academic Career. In addition to “inside tips from a hiring manager and best practices in career planning to find a job you will love in the world of non-academic career options,” the session included creating an “elevator speech,” networking as a part of life, what skills you need for industry and how to acquire them while still in the lab.

Last year, Philip Shapira (1986-87 Legislative Branch Fellow) and his colleagues anticipated industrial restructuring and transformation issues would emerge more prominently. “They have done so and now we need a thoughtful and evidence-based approach to industrial policymaking,” he said. Designing and Governing the New Industrial Transformation focused on the need to harness innovation and new technologies to benefit workers and communities as well as businesses.

Looking ahead to AAAS 2018 in Austin, TX, session proposals may be submitted here. The deadline is April 20. Policy fellows are always encouraged to make submissions!