Highlights from CCST’s 35th Year + 2024 Preview

Headshot in formal wear outside the Capitol
Sarah Brady, PhD, Interim CEO

In 2023, CCST celebrated 35 years of strengthening California policy with science. Along the way, we significantly grew our impact, achieved milestones years in the making, and embraced some big changes. This fall, after bidding farewell to our CEO and long-time champion Amber Mace, I stepped in as Interim CEO, and I’m more inspired than ever by CCST’s incredible network of Partner Institutions, experts, board members, policymaker champions, philanthropic partners, and of course the CCST team.

Over the last year, CCST organized and delivered expert-crafted insights on a wide range of disaster resilience challenges facing our state, including climate change and the drive toward carbon neutrality, energy and land use efficiency, wildfire, and more. Here are some highlights from 2023, plus a preview of exciting new developments in the year ahead.

Wildfire Smoke Study. CCST and Blue Forest released the peer-reviewed report, “The Human Health Benefits of Improving Forest Health in California: Investigating the Links Between Forest Management, Wildfire Smoke, and the Health Sector.” The study unites leading experts toward addressing the far-reaching impacts of wildfire smoke and realizing the human health benefits of promoting forest health.

Coming in 2024: CCST is in conversation with state and federal policymakers to explore opportunities to mitigate adverse impacts of wildfire smoke by better engaging the health sector in forest management.

Wildland Fire Policy Accelerator. CCST partnered with the Federation of American Scientists, COMPASS, and ConservationX Labs to source, develop, and publish policy memos for the Federal Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission, which was charged with providing wildfire policy recommendations to Congress. The Policy Accelerator recruited academic researchers and experts and provided them with training on how to develop their compelling ideas into actionable policy memos.

Key Challenges for California’s Energy Future. At the request of the State Legislature, CCST released a peer-reviewed energy primer that represents a new rapid-release format for select CCST products. The primer offers a framework for the state’s energy transition and highlights urgent key issues for current and incoming policymakers. Shortly after its release, CCST was invited to share this primer at the kickoff workshop for the 2025 SB 100 Joint Agency Report. 

Coming in 2024: CCST has been working diligently to update Key Challenges so that it remains a relevant and useful resource for California’s policymakers. At the request of the Governor’s Office, this update includes new content on distributed energy resources, which will be published soon. CCST is planning an in-person briefing for legislative staff in late January to help spread the news about this resource.

CCST Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. The 14 members of the 2023 cohort brought their skills as scientists to State offices, addressing timely matters such as clean energy, housing and transportation, and supporting meaningful engagement in the state’s Fifth Climate Change Assessment. Alumni Fellows are also guiding CCST’s efforts to increase representation of historically marginalized communities in the program and build a more diverse pipeline of future science-savvy policy leaders. With 84% of our Fellows staying in policy work, we’re building a sustained presence of scientists in the State Capitol working on policy.

Coming in 2024: I’m thrilled to welcome our 15th cohort of CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellows, whose placement offices will be announced soon. I love that after 15 years, demand continues to grow, with new policy offices stepping up to interview our Fellows!

S&T Policy Fellows Endowment Fund. The CCST Science & Technology Policy Fellowship has required a great deal of fundraising focus in order to achieve sustainability, and CCST’s efforts have paid off: the program has proven wildly successful! This year we reached our goal of a $30 million fellowship endowment when the 2023 State Budget allocated $10 million to top off our prior philanthropic funding. These funds ensure a minimum of 8 to 10 Fellows annually.

Coming in 2024: As demand for the Fellows continues to grow, we’re refining our goals to support and sustain the current demand of up to 15 Fellows annually. We also seek to expand and innovate by creating new topic-specific cohorts. These cohorts will support inter-agency collaboration on complex science and technology issues, such as wildfires, that require a whole-of-government approach.

Tackling timely issues in 2024. CCST will continue to anticipate the needs of policymakers, build expert coalitions, and advance science-informed policy through 2024. This will include:

  • a series on artificial intelligence, which will help to ensure that legislative staff have the access and expertise they need to both harness the power of AI and protect government operations;
  • a project with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation focused on fumigant alternatives;
  • a workshop on hydrogen, with partners including Berkeley Labs and the UC Office of the President (UCOP), to help catalyze a more coordinated research agenda across the state;
  • an expanded Science & Technology Week in early February, which will include the return of our popular Science Translators Showcase;
  • a new, standalone Science Day in October 2024.

Thank you for supporting science-informed policy and being a part of what we do. To stay updated on upcoming projects, events, and more opportunities to engage with CCST, sign up for our monthly Spotlight newsletter.

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