Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering: 2016 Workshop   

Each April the Graduate School sends two University of Wisconsin–Madison graduate students to learn about science policy and advocacy at the Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop in Washington D.C. The workshop, sponsored by a coalition of scientific groups including the AAAS and AAU, teaches STEM graduate and upper-class undergraduates about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations process, and tools for effective science communication.

Students participate in interactive seminars for both policy-making and communication. They learn about ways to stay engaged and involved after they return to their campuses, through relevant professional societies or on-campus activities. The day after the culmination of the workshop, students form teams and conduct meetings with their elected Members of Congress and congressional staff members, putting into practice what they’ve learned.

Read more about the workshop here.

The Graduate School hosts a competitive process to select the two UW-Madison graduate students to attend the CASE workshop and covers the cost of travel, accommodations, meals, and event registration for the graduate students selected to attend.  The UW-Madison Office of Federal Relations arranges Capitol Hill visits for the selected students, where they meet with Wisconsin congressional staff.

We are pleased to announce the following two graduate students have been selected to attend the CASE workshop April 17-20, 2016.

Julia Nepper

Ph.D. candidate in Biophysics

Nepper is a Ph.D. candidate in the Biophysics program; she is a member of the Weibel lab.

Nepper states, “According to the National Science Board (NSB), 30% of research in the US is funded by the federal government.1 However, in a 2014 survey conducted by the NSB, only half of respondents understood what a scientific experiment is, and a mere quarter of respondents had an understanding of what a scientific study is.1 This disconnect between those conducting research (scientists) and those benefiting from it (the public) is apparent in the divisive way in which topics such as climate change, vaccination, and genetically modified organisms are discussed in American politics versus in the scientific community.”

“As both a member of the public and a scientist, these issues affect me strongly. I try to correct misinformation among friends and family, but I believe that with a better understanding of the complexities of science policy I can do more to effect real change,” says Nepper.


1 NSF Science & Engineering Indicators 2016 (NSB-2016-1).

Elisabeth Schlaudt

M.S. candidate in the Geoscience and Water Resources Management programs

Schlaudt is pursuing master’s degrees in Geoscience and Water Resources Management.

Schlaudt says her career aspirations are directly tied to the goals of this workshop. “My decision to simultaneously complete two M.S. degrees came from the desire to merge science and policy as they pertain to freshwater management. Although dependent on aspects of engineering and physical science, resource management is fundamentally social in nature and demands solutions that draw on knowledge of both science and policy.”

Schlaudt states, “As scientists, we have an obligation to ensure that our research is accessible and available to the wider public. This requires the ability to engage with those who rely on it to make informed decisions about public policy in addition to the ability to “translate” research. When crafting legislation, too often the issue for policy makers is not a lack of research-based knowledge but a lack of directly usable knowledge. Developing scientists with an understanding of science policy and advocacy is a crucial step in bridging this gap.”

2014 CASE attendees (Photo: Matthew P. Spangler)

A few of the 2015 CASE workshop participants (R to L): Riccardo Cappa, Christine Sur, Menglu Yuan, Sam Wilson, Amanda Netburn, Kathy Myers, Robin Cummings. AAAS/Kat Zambon

Last year UW-Madison graduate students Danielle Lohman, Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry, and Anna Williams, pursuing a Ph.D. in Astronomy, attended the CASE workshop.

“Attending the CASE workshop was a fantastic and eye-opening opportunity. We learned how science policy is made–from the federal budget process and the structure of congress to science advocacy and advising in Washington. I especially enjoyed meeting the speakers, the other workshop participants, and gaining a perspective for how our research fits into the bigger picture”, says Lohman.

After the workshop Lohman and Williams teamed up on a presentation for both of their departments about what they learned at CASE, focused on how STEM graduate students can get involved in science policy. Lohman and Williams said it is clear that this is an important topic of interest.

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