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Cornell University


Thursday, August 13, 2015
Interested in using science to inform public policy?

Consider taking BME 4440, Science Policy Bootcamp: Concept to Conclusion

Instructor: Prof. Chris B. Schaffer (Biomedical Engineering) 

Offered: Fall, 2015 (3cr.) TR 1:45-2:40pm

As scientific and technological discoveries continue to change our world and society at a rapid pace, it has become imperative that our policymaking approach be informed by science. From energy policy to climate change, from health care to bioterrorism, from science education to technology innovation it has become critical to have professional scientists and engineers actively engaged in the policymaking process. However, a fundamental issue facing today's government is the fact that too few scientists have experience with the inner workings of public policymaking and too few policymakers have significant science or engineering knowledge. This large gap between the two fields needs to be bridged if we are to have a society where science influences the course we take.

This course, Science Policy Bootcamp: Concept to Conclusion, aims to fill this void. Scientists and engineers in this course will learn about the policymaking process through active research and advocacy work. Some class time will be devoted to broadening student perspectives on science policy through lectures by Cornell faculty and visiting government officials, group discussions of reading assignments, and other activities. The primary activity of the course, however, will be a real policy-making exercise that builds over the course of the full semester. Working in small groups students will identify a key science policy issue, thoroughly research the issue, formulate a detailed plan to address the issue, and implement their plan for solving the problem toward the end of the term. Examples may include producing technical reports and analysis, drafting legislation, commenting on Federal or State rulemaking, writing legal briefs to support legal action, launching public outreach campaigns, or raising press awareness of an issue. There will be opportunities to meet with local, state, and federal lawmakers and government officials to try to advance policy ideas, including visits to Albany, NY or Washington, DC.

This three-credit course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:25 to 2:40 pm. The course is open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students in any science, engineering, or mathematics discipline and enrollment will be limited to about 20-25 students. Please direct any questions to Prof. Schaffer at