Introduction to the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships

Salaeha Shariff, Director of Outreach for the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship (STPF), stopped by BU to talk to STEPUP members about the fellowships last month. For members who missed the session, here is a brief overview of what she shared with us. The AAAS website is of course a great source of information, so listed here are a few key points from our notes that we thought might be good to highlight. For more detailed information visit: https://www.aaas.org/program/science-technology-policy-fellowships

The STPF supports scientists who are interested in serving directly in the policy arena. Fellows work in a congressional office, government agency, or judicial branch for one to two years, and apply their science and technology expertise to the policy field while building valuable skill sets and a wide networking base. Fellows are also exposed to courses and workshops designed to help them further their careers. Applications for this amazing opportunity are open now and due November 1st.

General details

  • Fellowships are supported either directly by the AAAS or through various partner societies (eg AGU – see list here: https://www.aaas.org/page/stpf/partner-societies-st-policy-fellowships). However, applicants are not limited to applying through either AAAS or the society; they can do both. This is well worth looking into, particularly because the timeline for partner societies may provide a better fit with an applicant’s plans for graduation.
  • Applicants are accepted at ANY TIME after earning a PhD. Applicants come from all stages of their post-graduate career.
  • AAAS does accept fellows with other advanced degrees (MD, MS), and not all PhDs are necessarily from a STEM field. The program has also accepted applicants with a strong demonstration of interest in science policy who have achieved success in other fields.
  • STPF fellows end up in a variety of positions after the fellowship ends; in academia, government, and industry. The diverse experiences gained from an STPF fellowship serve alums well in any career path.

Strengthening your application

For anyone thinking of applying for the AAAS STPF, here are some approaches that can make an application stronger in the eyes of the selection committees.

  • Applicants should show a history of interest in science policy.
  • Flexibility and an enthusiasm for tackling unfamiliar tasks are personal qualities that are highly sought-after; demonstrate a diversity of interests during or after graduate studies. A strong science background is required, but a standout applicant does not appear to have spent their entire scientific training focused on bench work.
  • Leadership qualities are essential, with experience inside or outside of academia showing interpersonal and organizational skills.
  • The applicant should be a clear fit for the program that they have selected; for example, someone seeking a position in the Judicial branch should ideally have legal experience or a law degree.

In order to boost their application, potential fellows should start thinking proactively about rounding out their research with some of these skill sets. For example, an applicant can seek leadership on the board of a student organization, volunteer at a congressional office, or work on a local campaign. Community outreach, including science communication, is another route to building a stronger application: for example, volunteer at a local museum or school. Generally, the best applicants are well rounded, with a history of interest in advocacy, outreach, and leadership.

Timeline

This is for the direct AAAS fellowship application process – check with individual institutions for differences in application due dates.

May 1st– applications open

November 1st– applications due

December – Applicants informed if they are eligible for consideration

February/March – 30-minute interview with selection committee

April – last stage interviews, applicants rank their choices of agency (Congressional fellowships are a slightly different process – placement is decided after orientation in September)

May-June – Applicants informed of final decision and placement

September – Fellowship begins

 

For anyone who is interested in this opportunity, please visit the site linked above. In addition, stay tuned for future STEPUP career panels or information sessions. For those who are going through the application process for the STPF now – good luck!