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Commemorating Four Decades of S&T Policy Fellowships

In the forty years since the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships® were established, much has changed. In 1973, the U.S. launched its first space station, Skylab, President Nixon passed the Endangered Species Act, and the first handheld cellular phone call was made in New York City. Policymakers and federal agencies were dealing with exponentially evolving technologies and scientific developments. It was clear that a new generation of scientists and engineers dedicated to and knowledgeable about public policy would be valuable to progress.

The Congressional Science & Engineering Program® began in the fall of 1973, with seven scientists and engineers placed in Congress. They were sponsored by four scientific and engineering societies: AAAS, American Physical Society (APS), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

The Congressional program grew steadily and the fellows had many interactions with staff at executive branch agencies. In 1980, the positive outcome of those cross-branch exchanges was the launch of the Executive Branch Fellowships. In that first year three fellows were placed at the Department of State, and six in a summer program at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The rest, as the saying goes, is history! The 40th class of fellows topped the 275 mark (including second year fellows) and there are now more than 2,600 alumni. They have contributed their skills and expertise to a tremendous range of issues, from climate change to gun control, welfare to small business development, disaster relief to health care reform, educational standards to bioterrorism, and much more.

Over 60 organizations have partnered with AAAS to sponsor fellows; more than 20 federal agencies, departments, and entities have hosted fellows in the Executive Branch; over 70 Congressional offices and committees have hosted fellows in the legislative branch.

Not only have the number of fellowships and partnerships increased, the experiences and opportunities for fellows have flourished in and beyond the fellowship. And, we continue to evolve. In 2011, the Overseas Fellowships at USAID Missions were relaunched and expanded. In 2012 the Global Health & Development Fellowships were established at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (see more on this in the 1st Quarter 2013 Fellowship Focus.) New sponsoring societies and host agencies and offices continue to join in our efforts.

Although the program has evolved, empowering a thriving corps of policy-savvy scientists and engineers, enhancing policy, and applying S&T in service to people around the world remain our aims. This has been accomplished only through collaboration with indispensable partners and individuals who have contributed in so many ways over these many years. And, of course, the S&T Policy Fellows who answered the call.  We look forward to continuing alliances, forging new collaborations, and welcoming many more fellows in the decade ahead.

Join us in celebrating 40 years of accomplishment!


Cynthia R. Robinson
Director, AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships