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Cornell University

Science Policy

How is science policy created and why is it important for scientists and engineers to be involved?

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.

Whether your research is on health disparities, sustainability, biomedical engineering, family and consumer policy, environmental conservation, personalized medicine, or evolutionary biology, science policy affects you and your research outcomes.

The Startling Conclusion about Problems in Federal Science Policy: It's Our Fault (watch the video by Former Congressional Fellow and Optics Society of America member Chris Schaffer of Cornell University as he gave a plenary session address to attendees of OSA’s Winter Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.)

Join the Advancing Science And Policy (ASAP) Graduate Student Association

ASAP was co-founded by Chelsea Gregg, and has been run by BESTies ever since. See their blog here. This graduate student group is dedicated to training STEM researchers and graduate students to share the value and significance of their work with policy makers. Members develop skills and professional networks through regular workshops, faculty chats, and invited speakers. Members learn to communicate with policy makers and the general public about the role of scientific input in advancing policy and society. ASAP supports writing initiatives, organizes trips to DC or Albany, meets with policy makers, and advocates for issues of interest. Contact ASAP

Science Policy Hands-on Courses

BME 4440: Science Policy Bootcamp: From Concept to Conclusion 3cr.(see coursework tab at left) Developed by the BEST Program co-PI Chris Schaffer and postdoctoral scholar Catharine Young with the help of an Engaged Cornell Faculty Fellowship

NTRES 4300: Environmental Policy Processes 3cr. Barbara Bedford & Clifford Kraft (Limited to 20. Application in the fall with November meeting dates, a long week in January in Washington, D.C. and spring meeting times)

Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

This Washington Policy briefing series features faculty experts who contribute information and analysis without political agenda to some of today’s most salient topics.These briefings provide broad and responsible coverage of the scientific debates behind the political debates.

Possible experiential opportunities

  • BESTernship in Albany over spring break
  • take a course in science policy (see here)
  • join a club (ASAP) to get training and exposure to science policy issues
  • prepare and pitch a bill for congressional consideration
  • shadow a public affairs officer
  • participate in answering the questions that the Department of Health or Department of Environmental Conservation answer to guide elected officials
  • translate for politicians Cornell research in public health, the environment, or energy
  • externship in public administration
  • ultimately get placed in a state agency as a New NY Fellow

Examples of outcomes and experiences

Related articles

From Lab to Legislation. Cornell Engineering Magazine. Fall 2015.

Why social sciences are just as important as STEM disciplines.  Washington Post. June 2, 2015 by Lance R. Collins, Dean of the College of Engineering at Cornell University and a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

It's time for scientists to engage with Congress. Written by postdoc alumna Catharine Young