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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / December 2019 / The Annual National Science Policy Network Symposium: Take One

The Annual National Science Policy Network Symposium: Take One

By Sydney Simpson, PhD Candidate in Microbiology and Immunology

The National Science Policy Network hosts an annual symposium to bring together the different chapters of the organization to focus in on skill building, knowledge gaining, and networking in regards to science policy. Sydney Simpson from the University of Rochester Science Policy Initiative (URSPI) attended this meeting in November 2019 and shares her experience here.  

In November of 2019 I attended the 2nd Annual National Science Policy Network (NSPN) Symposium, in hopes of answering a few questions: Are there careers in Science Policy that interest me? What can I do to prepare for these careers? And most importantly, do I like Science Policy enough to make a career out of it?

Shortly after landing in Madison, Wisconsin I headed over to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and began my first activity: C-ROADS, an interactive climate simulation that can be summarized as a combination of a model of the United Nations, where participants mimic climate change negotiations, and a computational model. Over the next 3 hours, we negotiated and advocated for our countries’ positions while taking into account the competing interests that come into play during diplomacy and policy making. We debated things such as CO2 emissions, when these emissions would peak, what rate they’d decline, and what reforestation effort we were willing to commit to the group effort. Finally, we discussed how much money we could contribute to or would need to take from the Green Climate Fund, a fund set up by the UN to assist developing nations in creating green energy. In the end, we were unable to reach our goal and the simulation showed much of the world flooding. The discussion afterwards was as illuminating as the activity itself. We discussed how developing tools such as C-ROADS stimulates conversations about science and engages people regardless of educational background.

The following morning Jo Handelsman, the previous Associate Director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, gave her opening remarks and discussed an initiative she worked on while in the OSTP; evaluating the science portion of forensic science. She discussed policy issues and implications- forensic techniques that have never been subject to controlled experiments to estimate effectiveness. She also talked about a new initiative to train early career scientists as expert witnesses. I stayed after her talk to get her business card and became one of the first scientists to apply for this new program. From here, I attended brief workshops on topics that ranged from what poses we use while speaking, to memo writing and how to get involved in local government. Throughout this time I met with a number of people, all as enthused about going into Science Policy as I am. I learned how important having a twitter presence is- as some employers even ask for your twitter account. I also met a fellow scientist and artist who creates science advocacy pins and zines that educate the general public about current science techniques such as CRISPR. AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows and Presidential Management Fellows also attended NSPN and happily gave information about these fellowships and other programs that I can apply to after graduation. From these new connections, I also learned about other professional conferences and organizations, such as the Annual AAAS Symposium, which both politicians and scientists attend.

The next day included more workshops as well as breakout meetings for the different NSPN hubs. I was able to get to meet members from other chapters in the Northeast, and what NSPN as a whole is doing as it continues to grow. Overall, this symposium taught me about science advocacy and communication in addition to policy, helped me to network, and more importantly facilitated connections with people in the field I want to go into. In the end, attending this conference only reaffirmed my belief that science policy is a good career choice, and I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in science policy attend an NSPN Symposium. Since attending, I have created a twitter account, remained in contact with my new network, and am working on my first ever KickStarter (information to come soon) to bring science advocacy pins to the East Coast.

This article was first published on the University of Rochester Science Policy Initiative (URSPI) Blog

For more information about URSPI, please contact Nazish Jeffery, President of URSPI.

Tracey Baas | 12/16/2019

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