December 24, 2006

45 Beacon: Meet the Ams

By Thomas-Medwid, Rachel S


Senior Policy Fellow

Genene Fisher always thought she would be a research scientist, but instead she took a slight detour when she decided to pursue science policy at the AMS Policy Program.

"While I feel I'm a scientist at heart, I wanted to pursue a career that allows me to work at the intersection between science and policy," says Genene, who received a Ph.D. in atmospheric and space science and a master of public policy from the University of Michigan in 2001 and a B. A. in planetary and space science from Boston University in 1996. "I felt working at AMS was a great opportunity to blend together my interests in science and policy."

Upon joining AMS in 2001, Genene worked on the AMS Policy Study Series, "Weather, Climate, and National Priorities." The series is intended to develop recommendations for policies that will lead to weather and climate products and services that are designed to improve the efficiency of important national activities within four sectors, namely: the economy, public safety, the environment, and national security. The studies also address infrastructure enhancements, research and technology developments and applications, and educational innovations to improve weather and climate information for public and private decision-support systems in these sectors.

Throughout her five years at AMS, Genene has focused on space weather and its impacts on society, technology, and policy.

"Society is becoming more dependent on activities and technologies that are affected by space weather," she notes. "As we increase our reliance on technological systems, we also increase our vulnerability to conditions in the space environment."

Recently, she received a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study policy issues in integrating space weather observations and forecasts into airline operations. Genene hopes this research study will improve communication between the aviation industry, scientific community, and government, and lessen the gap between information development and operational needs.

Genene's other focus has been integrating science and policy for students. She is developing science policy curricula and case studies that can be implemented by universities, allowing AMS to serve as a clearinghouse for course materials. Genene hopes these curricula will assist in educating the present and future leaders in atmospheric science, space weather, and related fields of geophysics to gain an understanding and appreciation of policy. The result will be that these fields as a whole will be better equipped to handle immediate and future policy issues. Genene recently received a grant from the Lounsbery Foundation for curriculum development, which will give her the opportunity for further development in the area.

"I'm very interested in the intersection of science and policy at universities," she explains. "More science students need to understand how their own research can impact society."

Working with another grant she received from the NSF, Genene developed and implemented a pilot course for the spring 2005 semester at George Mason University within their School of Computational Sciences. The course, "An Introduction to Science Policy," focused on issues within the space weather and meteorological fields, including societal impacts, international collaboration, and public/private-sector partnerships,

Among Genene's many accomplishments at AMS, she has been active in getting two symposia off the ground at the AMS Annual Meeting. First, she has been helping to shape the Symposium on Space Weather- this year will mark the fourth year of the symposium.

"There are many commonalities between the space weather and meteorology fields," Genene notes. "This symposium is designed to help people see this connection and how both disciplines can learn from each other."

secondly, for the past two years she also led the organization of the Symposium on Policy and Socioeconomic Research at the Annual Meeting.

"This symposia is allowing for a much-needed venue for social scientists and physical scientists to interact," Genene says.

Genene's Ph.D. dissertation involved a combined theoretical and experimental study of the dynamics of the polar mesosphere and lower thermosphere. She operated and maintained optical instruments at Peach Mountain, Michigan, and the Early Polar Cap Observatory, Resolute Bay, Canada, and is one of the few people to visit the magnetic North Pole. As a graduate student, Genene was already balancing science and policy as she pursued studies at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. She conducted research projects on presidential leadership in setting science policy, public access to research data, and doubling of the science budget. Between 1994 and 1996 she was an undergraduate research assistant at the Center for Space Physics at Boston University, and in 1995 was an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Fellow at the National Astronomy and Ionospheric Center at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. In 1994 she was a summer fellow at the Department of Meteorology at the University of Miami (Florida).

At AMS, Genene also led the recent strategic planning process for the Policy Program, which released its plan in early 2006.

"AMS has given me the perfect venue to work within the intersection of the scientific community, government, and private sector," Genene comments. "What it comes down to is bridging the gap between them."

Genene and her husband Ben had their first child, Lucas, this past April, and she is adjusting well to the multiple demands motherhood brings on top of her job at AMS.


Copyright American Meteorological Society Nov 2006

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