CCST Science Fellows
Frequently Asked Questions
Please read the FAQ below for detailed answers to many of the questions we often receive. For more information, listen to our September 2019 Science Fellows Webinar with current fellows and alumni for a firsthand account of the fellowship experience.
To be eligible for the Fellowship, candidates must possess the following minimum qualifications:
- A Ph.D. or equivalent level degree (Sc.D., M.D., DVM, DO, DDS, EdD, etc.) in a qualified field (engineering; social or behavioral sciences; medical or health sciences; biological, physical, or earth sciences; or computational sciences or mathematics). Degrees other than those noted here may also qualify on a case by case basis.
- Hold U.S. citizenship or have eligibility to work on a full-time basis for a US employer (e.g., permanent residents, refugees, asylees, holders of Employment Authorization Documents). CCST will not sponsor a Fellow for a work visa.
The following are not eligible to compete:
- Individuals who have not completed all doctoral program requirements by September 1, 2020
- Individuals who have registered as lobbyists in the State of California or under the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act within 6 months of the application deadline
Yes. There is a need for scientists and engineers from all sectors to participate in this program. With a broad range of backgrounds, the fellows will offer a wide array of technical expertise to legislative and executive branch offices. Scientists and engineers from industry can benefit from the professional development aspects of the program as much as those from academia or other sectors. As with all other fellows, there will be a requirement to abide by the conflict of interest guidelines and disclosure requirements of your Fellowship Host Office.
Yes, under certain circumstances. You may apply if you expect all doctoral program requirements to be completed by September 1, 2020. CCST reserves the right to demand proof of degree as a condition of the Fellowship.
No. We expect some successful applicants to be at the beginning of their careers. Experience is only one of several key evaluation criteria. What helps distinguish a successful candidate at this early stage in their career is a demonstrated commitment to communicating their scientific work to a broader audience and tackling topics that impact public health, safety, and welfare.
No. CCST is recruiting nationally and encourages applications from individuals across the country. Fellows should be interested in California policy issues. In addition, intensive training about the California policy making process will be provided at the start of the Fellowship program.
Fellows are expected to provide unbiased advice to legislators and may not advocate for particular points of view. Registered lobbyists or persons who have been registered within 6 months of the application deadline may not apply for the current Fellowship year.
State employees may apply if they are on leave without pay for the duration of the Fellowship and if they have no independent interaction with their home agency during the period of the Fellowship.
We are looking for candidates who are open to learning and who will be effective at engaging in the policy making process with impartial scientific and technological contributions.
While there is no ideal candidate, there are certain traits that predict success. Among these are:
- A sincere interest in California current events and state decisions, policies, and the political processes
- A capacity to be flexible, adaptable, and fully engaged
- A willingness to work in a fast paced, high profile work environment
- A strong desire to learn how policy decisions are made and to understand and appreciate the needs of decision makers
- Powerful written and oral communication skills
- An ability to translate often complex scientific data into non-technical prose
- A strong desire to inform public policy decisions using sound and unbiased scientific and technical data
- An ability to deal comfortably with technical information outside one's own specialty
- An appreciation for the talents and abilities of individuals with differing backgrounds and credentials
- An affinity for interdisciplinary collaboration
- Personal initiative and self-motivation
- An ability to work on diverse teams and to take direction from non-scientific personnel
- Leadership potential
- Strong analytical and problem solving capabilities
- Personal and professional versatility and adaptability
- Personal integrity
No. It is impossible to predict what specific technical issues and questions will come up during the course of your Fellowship year. Although you may be asked to weigh in on questions that are in your area of expertise, it is far more likely that you will research other issues and interact with experts from other disciplines. Your training in the scientific method (inquiry, analytical skills, etc.) will serve you as much, or more, than your specific training.
No. Fellows are not expected to know how the policy world works prior to beginning the Fellowship, but they are expected to be interested in learning about the process.
The selection committee will take into account the level of policy expertise a candidate could reasonably be expected to have based on their training. An astronomer would not be expected to have any formal training in policy, whereas an economist or a political scientist might. Neither candidate would have an inherent advantage. However, the selection committee will be looking for candidates who demonstrate an understanding of the potential societal value of their work and of science in general and how technical expertise can be useful to those who make decisions on behalf of the public.
No. We encourage applications from professionals at all stages of their careers. Experienced technical personnel will have much to contribute to the policymaking process. What will mark success in candidates at this career stage will be an ability to thrive in an environment vastly different from what you may be used to and an understanding and acceptance of the fact that in the policy arena you will be the student and that your "teachers" may be much younger than you.
See the "important deadlines" section on the Overview page for information on application timelines and deadlines.
Yes. You will be required to complete your application online. When you go to the application you will first be required to establish an account at which time you will be provided a unique account number. This account number will be required on all for all supporting documents (e.g. letters of recommendation). Go to the "Apply" section on the Overview page to see more information about the application process.
Yes, they do. Applicants should provide their references with all the necessary information pertaining to reference letters, including the applicant's unique identifier number and submission deadline. Applications with fewer than three references by the submission deadline will not be reviewed.
Recommendation letters must be submitted online and must reference your application account number. Under special circumstances, recommendation letters may be submitted via U.S. mail (see below). See directions in the apply section.
You should ask your references to include the following information in their letters:
- How long the individual has known you and in what context
- How this Fellowship would benefit you and what skills, training and personal attributes you would bring to the Fellowship program
- What your particular strengths are and what challenges you might face in this setting
Your references need to submit their letters directly to CCST by e-mail (preferably from their professional account) by no later than 11:59 pm PST, on March 1, 2020. Their letters must include your application account number in the subject line. They will receive confirmation that CCST has received their letter once it has been reviewed and accepted as valid. You may wish to provide them with the "What are you looking for in a Fellow?" question above, which contains more details about how to submit recommendations. Reference letters should be emailed as Word or PDF attachments to [email protected].
Once a reference has been reviewed and accepted as valid by the CCST staff, you will receive an email from the application system that a recommendation letter has been received. In addition, you may log on to your application account and check the status of your reference letters on the dashboard tab. We also recommend that you check with your references to see if they received a confirmation of receipt from CCST.
You may, if you wish, request more than three of your references to submit letters of recommendation, but the Selection Committee will only look at the first three received by CCST.
Yes, but CCST will confirm receipt of only those recommendations submitted via e-mail. Letters need to be received at the Sacramento CCST office by 11:59 pm PST on March 1, 2020 in order to be accepted as part of your application.
Absolutely. The Selection Committee will be looking for candidates with broad experience. Previous employment or volunteer work that has no relationship to science or your academic career will be considered relevant as a demonstration of your overall experience, interests, and abilities. Also include any previous fellowships you have received, even though they may have been outside your current field.
CCST employs a multi-tiered approach to the review process, to ensure candidates have an opportunity to present themselves in the most favorable light and to allow the selection committee to fairly gauge the potential of success for each candidate. Following an administrative review to confirm the eligibility of a candidate's application packet, the committee evaluates the written material submitted and selects semi-finalists for online interviews with CCST staff. Next, a round of finalists will be brought to Sacramento for interviews. After the interviews are completed, the committee will select up to fifteen individuals (and several alternates) who will be offered fellowships.
The selection committee will complete its evaluations of the application material and select semi-finalists for Skype interviews approximately 2 months after the close of the application period.
Finalists will be notified immediately after the conclusion of the Skype interviews, at which time they will receive a briefing paper assignment and information about when and where to report for an interview. Interviews will take place over a three-day period approximately a month after being notified of finalist status. All applicants must be able to attend their interview in person. No teleconference or videoconference interviews will be permitted. Reasonable domestic travel costs for the interviews will be reimbursed.
Fellowship placement offers will follow soon after the interviews. This timing provides ample opportunity for fellows to complete current assignments, secure housing in Sacramento, and be ready to begin the Fellowship on November 1st of the selection year. For a more detailed look at the selection calendar please click here.
The interview process provides a valuable opportunity for selection committee members to assess each candidate to determine if they would thrive in the Fellowship environment and would be effective at contributing a sound analytical perspective to the decision making process. It enables the committee to see the candidates in action -- to witness their ability to think on their feet, to solve problems and analyze options, and to effectively communicate technical information to a non-technical audience in a time frame relevant to the policymaking arena. It also allows members of the selection committee to follow up on any specific questions they may have from a candidate's application. Because an effective Fellow will be evaluated on more than education, research experience and journal articles, the interview provides the candidates with an opportunity to present to the selection committee those attributes of their character and style that they think will be most effective in the decision making environment.
Questions About the Fellowship Program
The CCST Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program is modeled on a federally focused Fellowship program operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for more than three decades.
AAAS has done extensive research into the effect its policy fellowships have had on participants. In brief, nearly 100% of fellows reported that the Fellowship had a major positive effect on their careers, regardless of the professional path they took after completing the Fellowship. Fellows are nearly unanimous in citing the Fellowship as one of the best and most important experiences in their professional lives.
CCST fellows have also cited the impact of our program on their professional and personal growth. To read profiles from CCST Fellowship alumni, visit the CCST Fellowship blog.
This Fellowship places you in an environment unlike the academic one from which you may be coming. The Fellowship work environment is in a public setting where the pace is fast and driven by legislative, budget, and regulatory deadlines. "Science and technology policy" refers to the laws and regulations that are put into place by lawmakers and the executive branch of government with a scientific or technological impact or component in their subject matter. Examples of science policy topics include incentives for the development and application of new technologies such as genomics, nanotech or artificial photosynthesis, the use and conservation of natural resources, protection of public health, and development and regulation of energy sources. The range of issues Fellows have worked include renewable energy, genetic testing, air quality, toxic materials, transportation, water supply and quality, regulatory boards, governance issues and health care. The work of a Fellow may often reach beyond science and technology issues to regulatory, social and economic concerns of the state.
The first day of the Fellowship is November 1, 2020, and the last day is October 31, 2021.
Yes. Physical location in the state capital is a key feature of the Fellowship. Fellows serve as legislative or executive branch staff and are expected to be present throughout the Fellowship year. The environment of the decision making process is fast paced and relies on relationship and trust as much as it does data. Fellows will also be expected to attend regularly scheduled seminars and other activities in Sacramento which will provide ongoing training and technical background. The valuable social network that will develop amongst the fellows and with their colleagues in the Legislature and Executive Branch can only be achieved by consistent interactions in a close working environment. Fellows are embedded in their Fellowship Host Offices and learn by doing.
Fellows will be responsible for locating their own housing. CCST will make every effort to point fellows to the most popular and effective sources of information about housing in the Sacramento region, including former Fellows. This information will be included in the offer letter to fellows.
Compared to some other state capitals, such as Springfield, IL, Austin, TX, or Richmond, VA, Sacramento is between about 5-15% more expensive. However, compared to most major U.S. cities, it is quite reasonable. For example, living in Sacramento is 64% less expensive than in San Francisco, 20% less than in Los Angeles, 27% less than Boston and 60% less than New York City. Living in Washington, D.C. is about 35% more costly than living in Sacramento.
Fellows are placed in offices of the California State Assembly, California State Senate, and the California State Executive Branch.
Yes, we will provide training to help fellows transition to this new environment.
One extremely valuable aspect of this Fellowship is a three week training period that occurs before placement begins. During this time, fellows will benefit from an intensive, interactive (and fun) introduction to the Fellowship, to the decision making process, and to Sacramento. In addition to lectures, panel discussions, and seminars on various relevant topics, there will be numerous opportunities for experiential learning, including role playing, mock legislative sessions, group assignments, and more. Fellows will also meet legislators and legislative staff, tour the Capitol, and enjoy an in-depth introduction to Sacramento. The training curriculum will include topics such as an overview of California politics and the policy process, science and policymaking, effective writing and presentation styles for the legislative arena and more.
Once your placement has officially begun, you will be under the supervision of your sponsoring office; CCST will, however, monitor your progress, provide ongoing professional development training, provide you with technical contacts, mentoring, and other support throughout the Fellowship year.
The culture and protocols for working in government offices do require dressing more formally than you may be used to if you are coming from an academic environment. In general, business attire is expected most weekdays, with occasionally more casual attire suitable on days designated by your assigned office. For men, a suit or slacks and sport jacket with a shirt and tie is appropriate; women should wear business dresses, suits, or skirts.
Fellows must commit to serving the full 12-month Fellowship year. Once making that commitment, if a Fellow withdraws for any reason except verifiable medical emergency, it may be considered a breach of contract and CCST may recoup eligible costs from the Fellow. At the present time, there is no provision for extending or renewing the Fellowship.
The base salary is $50,000, which is comparable to the salaries provided to experienced postdoctoral scholars at the University of California. CCST also provides a benefit package, including health, dental, and vision benefits as well as paid time off. In addition, CCST will reimburse up to $4,000 in actual relocation costs (for moves over 50 miles) and will provide additional allowances for health insurance. CCST also offers funding for travel and professional development activities that support your Fellowship experience.
Yes. Although most fellows will be paid the base salary, we have limited flexibility to provide a larger salary for fellows who meet certain criteria of experience and current salary.
At the time you are selected as one of the 15 finalists, if you feel you need to seek a higher salary, you will be asked to complete a salary increase request. Your request will be reviewed and you will be notified immediately of the level of salary available to you. You will then have one week to determine your interest and ability to accept the offer as proffered. If you decline, an offer will be made to an alternate from the finalist list.
As a CCST employee, Fellows will be paid directly by CCST for their Fellowship experience with the State. Fellows will be paid bi-weekly starting on November 15th of the Fellowship year. CCST will withhold taxes and issue the Fellow a W-2.
No. You will not be an employee of the State. You will be an employee of CCST. The Fellowship provides a unique professional development opportunity to science and technology professionals. You will be fully immersed in the California state policy making arena. Your daily activities will complement activities of employees in the same office. And, you will be bound by the same codes of conduct, financial disclosure requirements, and ethics guidelines of your Host Office.
Because fellows will be housed in state government, they occupy positions of public trust. Anyone privileged to work in such an environment is held to high standards of personal and professional behavior.
All designated employees of the California state government are required to submit annual financial disclosure forms that elucidate any financial relationships that might cause a conflict of interest. Given the nature of the Fellowship, participants will be required to sign standard forms certifying that they will abide by rules of ethical conduct established by the state legislature. Fellows will also be required to attend ethics training courses.
These provisions are guided by the California Political Reform Act, the State Constitution and other government codes that regulate the conduct of legislative members and staff. You will be provided more detailed information regarding these requirements if you are selected to be a Fellow.
You may publish while on the Fellowship under certain conditions. Submission of papers is subject to review by CCST and the Host Office to avoid conflicts of interest, and to ensure that there is no breach of confidentiality. The complete rules pertaining to publishing are contained in the Fellowship policies and procedures handbook, which will be provided to fellows during the three-week training.