The fifth class of the California Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program has begun work in Sacramento, and the program is planning for the next five years.
“We are very proud of the legacy this program is building,” said CCST Executive Director Susan Hackwood. “The Science and Technology Policy Fellows are a resource unique at the state level, and have demonstrated over the past four years that policymakers value having this sort of S&T expertise available.”
The program, which began operation in 2009, places ten professional scientists in yearlong appointments in the legislature. Modeled on a similar program run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Congress for decades, the California S&T Policy Fellowship is one of the only state-level programs of its kind. It is designed to enable fellows to learn about the policy process while working with policymakers to address issues that involve science or technology.
“The Legislature deals with many issues that involve questions of science,” said Assemblyman Bill Quirk, whose office is hosting one of the 2013-14 Fellows. Quirk, formerly a researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the only science PhD in the Legislature, continued, “The analytic and technical skills of the Science and Technology Fellows help us get to the scientific basis of the issues. I am very happy to have a S&T Fellow on my staff.”
The first four groups of Fellows have been well received by the legislature, receiving formal acknowledgments and thanks at the end of their terms from both houses.
The Fellows are selected the previous year, and spend the first several weeks of their terms in a training program which introduces them to the realities of working in the Legislature. The ‘boot camp’ training regimen is designed to provide the Fellows with the specialized skills they need to be successful in their assigned roles. Placements begin in December, when the Fellows begin working under the guidance of legislative staff.
The intersection of science, technology and policy is frequently complex. Issues such as water management or energy planning can involve considerable amounts of research and data. S&T Policy Fellows apply their analytical and research expertise to help policymakers navigate these technical issues.
Many previous fellows have continued employment in the public sector following the end of their appointments, moving on to jobs with Legislative staff and in executive agencies of California and the federal government. In addition, many participate in the S&T Fellows Alumni Program. This program, which began in 2013, offers sustained and regular connections with other S&T Policy Fellowship program alumni, including an annual conference among alumni and current Fellows, and maintains a networking database and internet portal.
Placements for the 2013-14 Fellows include the offices of five Assembly members and the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, Senate Environmental Quality Committee, Senate Transportations and Housing Committee, and the Senate Office of Research.