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Meyer-Morse during her days a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow®.

Taking a Leap from Federal to State Level Policy

These days, Nicole Meyer-Morse (2011-13 Executive Branch Fellow, Department of Defense – DoD) can be found at the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. She took her AAAS Fellowship experience and parlayed it into a new one as a California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) Science and Technology Policy Fellow sponsored by the American Society for Mechanical Engineers in order to impact public policy closer at the state level.


What was your AAAS fellowship experience like?

During my fellowship, I initiated and managed interagency and strategic relationships with nonprofit, industry, and academic partners for the Chemical and Biological Defense Program including the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of these collaborations was to establish a global biosurveillance network to enable senior leaders to respond rapidly to disease outbreaks. I also engaged with international partners on preparedness and response for chemical and biological-related incidents.

How do you impact policy in California today?

In collaboration with California state partners (the Department of Public Health and the Department of Food and Agriculture), I am drafting the state level plan for what these agencies will do in response to a BioWatch event. BioWatch is a DHS program designed to detect pathogens in the environment. Currently, BioWatch results are not linked to real-time public health data. This delays leadership's ability to make informed decisions about how to respond. To address this issue, I have proposed to DHS that we collaborate to develop an automated system that mines data from a variety of sources (e.g., 9-1-1 calls and social media feeds) to enable decision makers to more rapidly and accurately decide whether or not to respond to a BioWatch event. 

What most surprised you about policymaking at the state level?

A hierarchical culture is one hallmark of the DoD, where I served as a AAAS S&T Policy Fellow®. When I moved to a state level agency in my new fellowship, I was surprised that there wasn’t a more noticeable difference in this respect.

What advice would you give to fellows considering making a move to a state level post?

I recommend applying to CCST as an amazing opportunity for anyone looking to get state level experience. I also encourage anyone who wants a state level position to use the AAAS network of fellows (including me) to identify the best path. I would love to have more AAAS Fellows working in the California government!