Tips for Grads: Get involved in policy for science and the public

By Neydis Moreno, PhD candidate

In March, I had the pleasure of attending the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop in Washington, D.C., thanks to the Graduate School. There, in addition to witnessing a beautiful bloom of cherry blossoms, I restored some of my faith in governmental policy processes. After a five-star crash course on the federal budget process, science policy, and a Hill visit, I also have more respect for our elected officials. It is a tough job made more difficult by the competing policy interests of their constituents.

Why do policymakers and the public want to hear from graduate students? As graduate students we are budding experts in our respective fields. We possess the ability to advocate for policy both locally and nationally. Additionally, policy directly impacts our lives in noticeable ways. If you need one more reason to get involved, what about increased employability? An unexpected benefit of engaging in science policy is that as you advocate and communicate your research you are also practicing your ability to communicate to a broad audience. Employers really like that!

Let’s exercise our power to influence public and science policy. Below, I share some (of many) ways to do that.

Low time investment     

Higher time investment

  • Review the federal budget process. (I promise it can be, if not fun, …enlightening!)
  • Join a society or organization where your voice gets amplified. I suggest Catalysts for Science Policy (CaSP).
  • Contact your elected officials. Many are even on social media platforms, like Twitter.

Further opportunities

  • Apply for opportunities like CASE.
  • Present your research to your local community and elected officials. Every year there is a UW-Madison Day at the Capitol event.
  • Look into policy fellowships. Spend a year on the hill or with news media communicating science.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.