Skip to main content

In Memoriam: Stephen D. Nelson

Stephen D. Nelson, Ph.D.
1943 -- 2014

Stephen D. Nelson, director of the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships® from 1984-1999, and  senior advisor to the program until his retirement in September 2013, passed away on 15 January 2014, while traveling with his wife in Myanmar.

Steve retired from AAAS as Senior Advisor for S&T Policy after 28 years of service and leadership. He touched many in the Washington DC science-policy community  with his thoughtful input, support, and guidance over nearly three decades.

He contributed significantly to the success of the S&T Policy Fellowships, and to the operations and growth of the broad range of AAAS  science, policy, and society activities.  Steve served as staff officer for the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy; helped design,  develop and execute both the AAAS Forum on S&T Policy and the Leadership  Seminar on S&T Policy; served as editor of the weekly Policy Alert;  and managed two prestigious AAAS awards, the Abelson Prize and the Carey  Lecture.  He co-authored or co-edited nearly 50 volumes published by AAAS on federal funding for research and development and other issues in science and technology policy. Steve was also an adjunct professor in Virginia Tech's graduate program in Science, Technology and Society at the Northern Virginia campus, and taught the program's core course on S&T policy.     

He generously contributed time and valuable perspective whenever called upon. Steve was a trusted adviser, mentor, colleague, and friend. He remains the longest-serving director of the S&T Policy Fellowships program, and leaves an enduring impact that all Science & Technology Policy Fellows, staff, and partners will continue to benefit from.

Steve was born September 1, 1943, in Hays, Kansas. He received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Kansas State University, and his PhD in social psychology from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining AAAS, he was senior professional associate at the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences. He also served for six years as administrative officer for Science and Technology Policy at the American Psychological Association. Before coming to Washington, DC, in 1977, Steve was project director at the Center for Research on Utilization of Scientific Knowledge at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. He also taught there in both the psychology and sociology departments.        

He is survived by his wife, Gloria Nelson, of Annandale, VA; their daughter, Dana Lea, of State College, PA; a sister, a brother, and a niece; and other relatives.

Steve was an accomplished pianist and enjoyed music very much. Memorial contributions may be made to the Stephen D. Nelson Memorial Scholarship Fund, established to support music education for pre-college age students at Bethany College, Lindsborg, KS, where Steve took piano lessons as a child. Contributions may be sent to the Plumer-Overlease Funeral Home, 723 1st Street, Stockton, Kansas 67669.

An on-line memorial website provides an opportunity to share memories and stories.  Click the following link to request access: