The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship: 35 Years of Science and Policy

March 25, 2009 |   | Contact: M. Daniel DeCillis

Each year the AAAS places over 150 Fellows in congressional and other agency offices in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of AAAS.

In 1973, a small pilot program placed seven fellows with scientific backgrounds in congressional offices, in an effort to make their expertise available to policymakers facing increasingly technical legislative issues. Over three decades later, the number has ballooned to over 150 Fellows, and demand for the Fellows is stronger than ever.

For 35 years, the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships have matched scientists and engineers in a range of fields – from agriculture and atomic physics to science education and defense technology – with executive branch agencies and congressional offices in Washington, D.C., that are seeking scientific expertise. Hundreds of Fellows have continued on to build careers in government, while others have moved into leadership positions in academia, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector.

“The AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellows provide critical scientific and technological expertise and analysis to help policymakers and regulators address challenges and take advantage of opportunities through scientifically informed policies and programs,” said AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship Director Cynthia Robinson. “We are grateful for the many individuals and organizations that play a role in the success of the AAAS Fellowships, and look forward to ongoing collaboration to expand the cadre of policy-savvy scientists and engineers who help fulfill the AAAS mission to advance science and serve society.”

The fellowships are supported by a coalition of nearly 30 professional scientific societies. Although specific host offices and assignments vary from year to year the highly competitive AAAS Fellowships are offered in five areas, each with a different focus. They include appointments in: congressional offices; foreign policy (including the State Department); national defense & global security (including the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, and the FBI); health, education & human services (including a range of agencies from the NIH to the Department of Education); and energy, environment, agriculture, & natural resources (including the NSF, Department of Agriculture, and EPA, among others). Fellows head to Washington D.C. in September for orientation, after which they begin their year-long appointments.

The program celebrated its 35th anniversary earlier this year, with testimonials from a variety of public officials as to the value of the AAAS Fellows.

U.S. Representative Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Michigan) said in interview at the anniversary celebration that the impact of the S&T Policy Fellows Program has been dramatic and successful. “The program is certainly important and irreplaceable because it is good for the institution and good for the participants,” said Ehlers.

“[The AAAS S&T Policy Fellows] are our future,” said Jay M. Cohen, undersecretary for science and technology at the Department of Homeland Security. “At an early stage in their careers they are able to understand the confluence of science, technology and policy making that will then influence lawmakers, decision-makers and policy-makers. It is a great program.”

For more information about the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships, visit their website at

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