Science policymakers serve as the bridge between researchers and the public, using their talents to find ways to translate esoteric, often highly technical scientific issues into something that can be sold as good policy.
Most people assume policymakers spend all of their time furtively hammering out laws in back rooms. In reality, those working in science policy have the opposite job: They take what is happening on the bench and bring it to the light of day. One of the best-selling points for science is showing how discoveries inside the lab will benefit everyone outside of it. Some people who do science policy have advanced degrees in their fields; some are just really good at advocating for a topic that they believe in. What all science policy experts have in common is literacy in science, economics and politics.
Policy is a two-way street between the government and the public, and policymakers can work at either end, either directly for legislators or for societies like the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Congressional members employ people who are experts in the scientific field and who serve as conduits between the legislators and their scientifically focused constituents. In this situation, science policymakers are responsible for formalizing the members' stance on a particular scientific topic, drafting legislation that addresses relevant issues and helping them determine how to vote on certain bills. On the other hand, policymakers working at scientific nonprofits promote positions on behalf of their societies’ interests. Workers on both sides are well-acquainted with each other and use these personal connections to help formulate policies that are mutually beneficial, while still appeasing their own constituencies.
There is not one path for pursuing this career. Some students pursue a master's degree in science and policy, while some scientists pursue a graduate level degree (typically PhD) in the sciences and then choose public policy as an alternative to academic or industrial work. Whatever route you take, internships during your undergraduate career can help you explore this profession, see if it’s right for you and provide you with professional connections. Explore a list of science policy internship opportunities for students in the Get Experience section below.
Want to know more?
- Careers in Science Policy
- Paths to Science Policy
- AAAS Science Policy Programs
- Advocacy, Public Policy & Science
- Getting Started with Science Policy
- Science Advocacy in Statistics
- Making the move into Science Policy
- British Ecological Society
Belonging to professional organizations & LinkedIn groups can provide you with networking, informational interviewing, & job shadowing opportunities, as well as assist you with finding internships and jobs.
- Science Policy Internships
- Geoscience & Public Policy Internships
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Chemical Society
- Research & Internship Listings
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Information retrieved from ASBMB Today: What is Science Policy?
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