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Oceanographer at Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation Helps Charts Course Towards Good Science Policy

April 5, 2013
Jon Kaye, Marine Microbiology Initiative Program Officer for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Image courtesy of The Oceanography Society.

Jon Kaye, who was recently recognized with a profile by The Oceanography Society, is not your typical oceanographer. He has left the traditional academic path for the world of philanthropy and public policy, helping the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation work to facilitate better science and technology related policy in California.

"It boils down to a belief that access to good science and data can help policy makers in their decision making process," said Kaye, who is a program officer for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative. "An important part of this is providing opportunities for policy makers and people with scientific backgrounds to interact and work together constructively."

Towards this goal, one of the principal programs currently supported by the foundation is the California Science and Technology Policy Fellowships, established by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) in 2009. The program, which receives funding from a coalition of five foundations, places professional scientists and engineers in the California State Legislature for one-year appointments. It is modeled after the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows® program, which has been successfully operating for nearly 40 years.

Kaye credits his oceanography background with teaching him how to approach issues from multiple angles, which is inherent in marine interdisciplinary research. More broadly, however, he considers the critical thinking, organizational, and synthesis skills that come with scientific training as valuable assets in working as a program officer, especially combined with his own experience working with policy makers.

"One of the reasons I was assigned to the California S&T Fellows program is because I spent two years as a AAAS Congressional Fellow," said Kaye. "The two programs share a great deal in terms of what they offer Congress and the California State Legislature, respectively. For California, though, we wanted to go even further, and come up with ways to measure the impact of these Fellows on science and technology policy."

Kaye notes that while no conclusive measures have been completed yet, the evidence is pointing towards significant impact for the California S&T Fellows program. The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is actively assisting CCST in procuring funding to extend the S&T Policy Fellows program past its initial five-year grant period.

"The foundation practices outcome-based philanthropy, and our hypothesis is that the S&T Policy Fellows program will have a solid and measurable impact on science- and technology-related policy in California," said Kaye, who adds that ways to replicate the CCST program in other states have been discussed.

"Every foundation aspires to create programs that make a difference," said Kaye. "California has one of the largest economies in the world, and one of the most significant science and technology sectors. We think that the S&T Policy Fellows have been an important and pioneering program, and that there are huge opportunities to expand programs such as this both in California and elsewhere."


CCST Spotlight is a weekly newsletter focusing on CCST activities and highlighting innovative science and technology research, applications, and policy issues in California. The Spotlight editor is Danny DeCillis. We welcome information and feedback from our readers about science and technology at work in the private, public, and education sectors. To send us questions or comments, contact us at ccst@ccst.us, or (951) 682-8701.