The first California Science and Technology Policy Fellowships have begun, placing 10 science and technology advisors to serve one-year terms in a variety of committees and legislator offices in the California State Legislature.
“The California Council on Science and Technology Legislative Offices Welcome Inaugural Class of California S&T Policy Fellows has assembled a most impressive charter class of Science Fellows,” said Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee. “The Republican Caucus is pleased to be hosting a fellow during this inaugural year and look forward to the added value a scientific perspective will bring. “In addition to the Caucus, fellows are also being hosted by three Senate committees (Energy, Utilities, and Communications, Environmental Quality, and Natural Resources and Water), as well as the Senate Office of Research, two Assembly committees (Natural Resources and Water, Parks and Wildlife) and the offices of Senate Majority Dean Florez, Assembly Members Wilmer Amina Carter and Sandré Swanson.
Recruited nationally, the fellows will assist their respective legislators and committees in formulating and evaluating science and technology policy for California. Areas of consultation may include legislation related to pressing issues and challenges, such as healthcare, bioethics, energy and water resource management.
“CCST’s S&T Fellows Program is an exciting opportunity for both the fellows and the state legislators they will support,” said CCST Council Vice Chair Mim John. “Throughout its history, California has been a world leader in scientific and technical innovation. The fellows will serve a pivotal role in helping both the Senate and Assembly ensure that state policy helps maintain that leadership.”
The program, adapted for California from the 36- year old American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Congressional Science and Technology Fellowship program, is the first in the nation to place PhD level scientists and engineers in a state legislature.
The California S&T Policy Fellowships began with an introduction on the Assembly floor, followed by a three week intensive boot camp on how things work in Sacramento. Fellows have undergone an intensive training covering the Legislative process, the effective translation of science for policymakers, and tips for success in the Legislative environment. With this training complete, they began their service in their placement offices in December, which extends through October. Applications are already being accepted for the second group of fellowships, which will begin in November 2010.
With serious budget challenges facing virtually every area of state services, it is hoped that the California S&T Fellows Program – funded by a coalition of foundations (including the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; Stephen Bechtel Fund/S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation; Kingfisher Foundation; The Heising- Simons Foundation; TOSA Foundation, and the Gen-Probe Fund) – may prove a useful resource to policymakers as they navigate the delicate balance of maintaining long-term policy goals in the face of significant fiscal limitations.
“As California confronts the challenges of public health, environmental protection, and energy needs, science and technology scholarship must be an integral part of policy making,” said Blakeslee. “[The fellows are] certain to provide academic rigor that will hold the CA Legislature to the highest standard.”