Moving from the Bench to Science Policy
In my last post, I talked a little bit about what science policy is, as a field. Here, I’m going to talk about how to transition from the bench to science policy as a career.
In my last post, I talked a little bit
about what science policy is, as a
field. Here, I’m going to talk about how
to transition from the bench to science policy as a career.
The way I moved from the bench to science
policy was simultaneously both the easiest and the hardest way. I earned a competitive slot as a fellow in
the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellowship
Program in 2006, and performed my two-year fellowship at the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Research
on Women’s Health. I say it’s the
easiest in that it is the most defined way for scientists to move into science policy;
it is perhaps the gold standard of how to transition. Other ways to transition into science policy
require some figuring of your own path – I plan to talk a little more about
some of those ways in future posts.
So now let me turn to why being an
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow – or “triple A S Fellow” as it is
affectionately called – is the hardest way to transition into science policy. The program is quite competitive, and there
are more and more applications every year as the program becomes more
well-known and prestigious. It has been around since 1973 and it is well-known for
its goal to “generate policy-savvy scientists and engineers by placing them in
full-time assignments in federal agencies and in Congress.” That’s right – even though it is called a
fellowship – you will be doing a “real job” for the government and having a
real impact, probably from Day 1 (not to mention that you will have a “real salary”
The projects assigned to fellows range
from staffing the House of Representatives Science & Technology Committee
to running a trans-NIH initiative to developing the State Department’s outreach
program to engage international audiences.
The AAAS website provides some testimonials
of former fellows so you can get a first-hand idea of the fellowship
Fellowships are available in a few
different areas, and the government agency where you will be placed depends
upon the fellowship
Just because you are a biomedical
scientist doesn’t mean that you will be competitive ONLY for the HEHS program. In
fact, the type of scientist you are rarely determines the program for which you
will be the best fit.
Because the selection committee
changes each year, it is impossible to say what you need for a successful
application. In addition, what worked
for one person might not work for another.
But what I can tell you is how I made my application competitive and
maybe that will give you a few ideas for yourself. That will be the subject of a future post.