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Winter 2012 Fellowship Focus

Happy 2012

We've launched into the new year celebrating a very successful 2011, and looking forward to planning and implementing exciting new initiatives. Below are a few highlights from the past year. All were made possible by the energy and engagement of the AAAS Fellowship network: Fellows, host federal agencies and congressional offices, partner societies, selection committee members, trainers, funders, sponsors, AAAS staff, and many other friends of the fellowships.

  • The 38th class of Fellows wrapped up in August 2011. The Fellows contributed significantly in many and diverse ways to the goal of supporting evidence-based policy, despite a tumultuous year -- they survived three near-shutdowns of the government to expand the ranks of S&T Policy Fellowship alumni to more than 2,400!

  • The 2010-11 class also marked the milestone of the 30th anniversary of the executive branch fellowships, which began at the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency with the first executive branch Fellows in the 1980-81 class. 

  • The 39th class launched in September 2011; it is the largest in our history, with more than 250 Fellows.

  • We welcomed six new staff members to the AAAS Fellowship team, expanding our capacity in programs, communications and marketing, recruitment, alumni relations, professional development, and finance and administration. You can learn about the entire Fellowships staff on the Fellowships website.  

  • We conducted outreach at nearly 50 conferences, career fairs, campus events and information sessions, and received more than 750 applications by the December 5th deadline for the 2013-14 fellowships.

  • We responded to inquiries from several countries as well as academic organizations, foundations, and NGOs exploring development of policy fellowships and programs. We were pleased to share our model and to connect with others interested in engaging at the intersection of science and policy.

  • We launched a process to create a new image and marketing campaign that will begin in mid-2012.  

  • Reaching the second year in our five-year strategic plan, we established a new Advisory Committee that will engage in crafting a vision and mission statement for the S&T Policy Fellowships to guide us into our fourth decade of operation.

Yes, we're now looking ahead to the 40th anniversary! A kick-off event is being planned for January 2013.

We thank you for your support and for your ongoing ideas and input to enhance our activities. Here's to another successful year of enhancing public policy while advancing science careers!

Fellow Features

A Unique Voice for Climate Change

Everyday millions of people tune into the NBC Nightly News to catch up on the latest national and world events. If you were watching on November 18, 2011, then chances are that you heard expert analysis from former Fellow Sabrina McCormick. Sabrina, who served at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2009-11, was interviewed as one of the lead authors of a report produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The media coverage didn't stop there. Sabrina and the report on the extreme weather impacts of climate change also received high profile coverage in Time magazine and The New York Times.

It all began when Sabrina was asked to write a guest blog about her experience working on the IPCC, on Sheril Kirshenbaum's Culture of Science blog. Sabrina is a sociologist and filmmaker, and Sheril thought that brought a unique voice to the climate change debate. After reading Sabrina's engaging blog post, Sheril contacted some colleagues, and Sabrina's work was mentioned in The New York Times DOT Earth blog and Time magazine.


Click here to read more.


Raising the Profile of Social Science at the Department of Energy

Last fall, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, met with several AAAS S&T Policy Fellows who have worked on projects at the Department of Energy (DOE) during the past two years.  He expressed that AAAS Fellows are key to raising the level of scientific knowledge and awareness of industry trends at the DOE. Since 1998, the DOE has hosted more than 40 AAAS Science & Technology Fellows. The Secretary thanked the Fellows for the work completed in their host offices at the DOE and reached out for their feedback.

In the roundtable discussion, Christa McDermott, 2009-11 Fellow in the office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, noted the advantages of integrating social science. "Bringing in more social scientists and focusing on the people-side of things could help achieve more of DOE's technological goals." Click here to read more.


Exploring a New Career Path in Policy, Mary Thomas PhD, 2010-12 S&T Executive Branch Fellow

During her postdoc at St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, Mary Thomas, a current Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, recognized that she had some qualities that distinguished her from other scientists. She was very comfortable speaking to 

groups, enjoyed giving talks and communicating science to all types of audiences - from her scientific colleagues to members of the media. Because of her communication skills, colleagues selected her to be the liaison between her research department and the public for several projects at the hospital. She also realized that this skill could lead her to an exciting new career path.

Mary was first exposed to careers in the policy realm when she used professional development funds from her postdoc at St. Jude's to attend a National Academies' Women in Science meeting, where she learned about many career opportunities outside academia. After her postdoc, she participated in a three-month Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellowship at the National Academies. Working on policy issues gave her more insight on the significance of her research. Click here to read more.  

In the News

Fellows Featured on National Public Radio

Francesca Grifo, 1990-91 S&T Policy Fellow at U.S. Agency for International Development, was a guest on NPR on November 30, 2011. Dr. Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, discussed the challenges and opportunities of new federal agency scientific integrity policies. Read more on NPR's website.


DJ Patil Contributes to a Two Part NPR Series 

DJ Patil, 2004-05 S&T Policy Fellow at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, was featured in a two-part NPR story on mining "big data" to ascertain critical trends that could support innovation and solutions to societal challenges. Dr. Patil, now a data scientist at Greylock Partners, was also highlighted in the January 9 edition of Fast Company. Read more about this on Fast Company's website and NPR's website.


Former Fellow Highlighted in LiveScience

Nicole Garbarini, 2009-11 S&T Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF), was featured in a LiveScience article about her work at the NSF's Office of Legislative and Public Affairs. During her fellowship she contributed to the agency's science communication outreach efforts including working on social media. Dr. Garbarini is currently working as a writer-editor at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Read this Q&A article with Dr. Garbarini


Apps4Africa Addresses Climate Change

Jeff Fox, 2010-12 S&T Policy Fellow at the State Department, is working on the Apps4Africa contest, a creative way for local innovators in African countries to address climate change adaptation. In the contest, participants develop mobile applications that help communities adjust to the local impacts of climate change. Dr. Fox helps coordinate communication between State Department offices and the private partners implementing the program, and evaluates the effectiveness of the program through participant surveys and data collected from social and online media.

The Center for American Progress recognized the Apps4Africa program for being "innovative and collaborative." Read more here.

Communicating Science Spotlight

While science plays a huge role in our lives, scientists have often struggled to find effective ways to communicate science to the public.John Ohab, 2007-08 S&T Policy Fellow at the National Institutes of Health, and 2008-09 S&T Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense, recently addressed this issue in his guest blog on He examined 3 Ways to Make Science Less Sciency. Dr. Ohab encourages scientists to find experts to communicate complicated topics, provide opportunities for people to contribute, and collaborate with like-minded organizations.