For more than 40 years, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has offered scientists and engineers the chance to serve “in the trenches” of public policy. The AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships place scientists and engineers in one-year fellowships in congressional offices and committees, and federal agencies. The program recently received the National Science Board’s 2014 Public Service Award for a group. In this video, Cynthia Robinson, director of the Fellowship program, talks about its diversity and strengths. Nearly 3,000 scientists and engineers have served as fellows in the program’s history. The original class of seven all served in Congressional offices; today, AAAS fellows serve on Capitol Hill and in nearly 20 Executive Branch agencies and departments (including NSF). Fellows come from all disciplines, career stages and backgrounds. Some stay employed in government after their fellowships end, some return to academia, industry or the non-profit sector — though, often, they maintain the “in the trenches” mentality. “Many of the fellows tell us that over the years they have become much more engaged in outreach about science and its role in policy,” Robinson says. “Not only with colleagues of different disciplines, but with the broader public and stakeholders outside of their scientific realms.”
The AAAS model has sparked similar fellowship programs, in the U.S. and abroad. “We are finding over the years that there is a lot of demand, especially from students and young scientists and engineers, who want to know how they can get their science beyond the lab … and really feel like they’re making a difference,” Robinson said. She cites a recent initiative launched by AAAS — along with other scientific societies — as a way to meet this demand. The NSB’s Public Service Award honors exemplary service in promoting public understanding of science and engineering.