AIP and APS Seek Applicants for Congressional Science Fellowships
The federal government funds about 30 percent of the nation's R&D, and almost 60 percent of basic research. Lawmakers are rarely schooled in science and technology, yet their actions influence R&D in major ways: It is Congress which directed that no money will go toward implementing the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, or that certain government-funded research data must be accessible under the Freedom of Information Act, or that the U.S. will no longer participate in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. AIP Member Societies have a direct interest in bills before Congress to establish an institute for biomedical imaging at NIH, to revive an office of noise control at EPA, and to allow local education agencies to waive federal guidelines for science teachers' professional development. This year Congress threatened double-digit cuts to NASA's Space and Earth Science programs, but was ultimately persuaded to restore the money.
Members of Congress frequently rely on their staffs for scientific and technological know-how in addressing these issues, but those staffers are often no more well-versed than their bosses. Providing this much-needed expertise is the purpose of the Congressional Science Fellowship programs run by the American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society. The Fellowships enable qualified scientists to spend a year on Capitol Hill, learning about the legislative process while applying their knowledge to science-related policy matters.
Yet Fellowship applications have fallen in recent years; in fact, APS is not sponsoring a Fellow for the 1999-2000 term. AIP and APS need good candidates who want to serve their government by analyzing and contributing to national science policy. The two programs are now accepting applications for the 2000-2001 Fellowships. SEE WEB SITES AT BOTTOM OF PAGE FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROGRAMS AND HOW TO APPLY.
Since 1988, AIP has been one of the 20-30 professional scientific and engineering societies that sponsor Fellows annually under a program organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. APS has participated in the program since its inception in 1973. Two other AIP Member Societies, the American Geophysical Union and the Optical Society of America, also participate in the Fellowship program. (For information on the AGU program, see http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/policy/congress_fellow.html/ and for the OSA program, see http://www.osa.org/aboutose/policy/news/intro.htm).
While some Science Fellows choose to stay in the policy arena, others return to industry or academia to share what they've learned about lawmaking with scientific colleagues. As Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) commented at a recent hearing, the science community "in essence doesn't know diddly about shaping public policy." He strongly urged scientists to participate in programs like the Fellowship to learn how Capitol Hill works so they can "help shape policy in the right way."
Readers interested in applying to the AIP and APS Fellowships should have a PhD in physics or a closely related field. In exceptional cases, the PhD requirement may be waived for candidates with compensating experience. Other requirements include U.S. citizenship and membership in APS or one of the other AIP Member Societies at the time of application. While a Fellow must have the scientific qualifications to be a credible representative of the science community on Capitol Hill, he or she should also have demonstrated an interest in broader societal concerns and the application of science to their solution. This broad interest can take many forms: For example, past Fellows have been involved in their professional societies, politics, student government, volunteerism, mentoring, and policy research.
AIP's new 1999-2000 Fellow, Greg Jaczko, begins his term in the office of Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) with international research experience, participation in collective bargaining for the graduate employee union at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and physics teaching to high school students as part of an Upward Bound program. As a particle physicist, Jaczko says that "people outside of physics always ask how my work is going to benefit society. In the immediate term, it won't have a direct impact. One of the things I really like about the Fellowship is having the opportunity to make some direct impact in the short term."
Few lawmakers can claim backgrounds like PhD physicists Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ). (Holt was an APS Congressional Science Fellow in 1982-83.) Therefore, scientists who are willing to spend a year of their time as Fellows will continue to have plenty of opportunity to serve their government and make an impact on national policy.
The application deadline for the 2000-2001 AIP and APS programs is JANUARY 15, 2000. Further information on the programs and how to apply can be found on the AIP web site at: http://www.aip.org/pubinfo/ or the APS web site at: http://www.aps.org/public_affairs/fellow.html
Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics