This post was originally written for the Early Career Climate Forum and posted in September 2014.
The policy arena is not a place many scientists are familiar with and even fewer are trained to work in. To help scientists learn how the political process works, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) runs the AMS Policy Program. It is divided into the Summer Policy Colloquium, a ten-day workshop every summer in Washington, D.C., and the Congressional Science Fellowship Program, a one-year paid appointment to work as science advisor for a member of congress, also in Washington.
The application deadline for both programs approaching fast, so we talked to Dr. Bill Hooke about the Summer Policy Colloquium and the Science Fellowship Program. He is an atmospheric scientist, author, avid blogger, current associate executive director of the AMS, and he directed the AMS Policy Program from 2000 to 2013.
Who should apply for the Summer Policy Colloquium?
Not everyone should apply. But if you’re planning on being a leader, a department chair, a dean, or a business manager, you will quickly realize how important it is to understand how national policy works and affects your company, your university, or your agency.
What can people take away from the colloquium?
One thing they can learn is how the federal budget for science works. Where does the research money for a university come from? Why do some departments get more than others? How do you increase those budgets? What poses risks to those budgets? Every scientist should know the answers to these questions, but very few actually do. Also, it is an affirming experience. It happens that scientists who are interested in the political process sometimes feel that their universities don’t appreciate them. When they come to the colloquium and meet other scientists with similar interests, it is affirming. It verifies that leadership in science is a reasonable career and aspirational goal.
What do applicants need to bring to the table?
We look for people with an interest or background in policy-making, or worked in journalism or blogging, anything that dealt with politics or societal impacts, something a little broader than just their science itself. But you also have to be a good scientist. If you’re not a good scientist, you’re not going to be a good leader of scientists. But on the other hand, just being a good scientist doesn’t make you a good leader of scientists, too. You have to be a little broader than your science itself to be respected among the policy-makers in your own university or company.
Is the Science Fellowship Program the next step up from the Summer Policy Colloquium?
The colloquium is like a 10-day policy boot camp. The Science Fellowship Program is more of a time commitment. It’s like having a Post-Doc. You get an in-depth understanding of the policy process as a participant of the process rather than a spectator.
Is the Summer Policy Colloquium a necessary first step for the Science Fellowship Program?
No, it is not a necessary first step. We’ve had people do the Science Fellowship Program who haven’t done the Summer Policy Colloquium. Neither is the colloquium a necessary step to take on a leadership position. There are many more leadership programs out there.
Are jobs in politics the main reason why people do the Science Fellowship Program?
Of the people who become congressional science fellows, about a third of them stay on Capitol Hill, a third stay in Washington in jobs related to politics, and a third return to the university environment. So, only about two third of all participants actually stay in politics-related jobs in D.C.
To learn more about or to apply for the AMS Summer Policy Colloquium or the AMS Congressional Science Fellowship Program, visit http://www2.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/policy/summer-policy-colloquium/ and http://www2.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/policy/congressional-science-fellowship/.
This year's Policy Colloquium will take place from May 31 to June 9, 2015. Applications will open soon. The Science Fellowship Program will start on September 1, 2015. Applications for this close on March 15, 2015.