Science and engineering students are becoming increasingly interested in pursuing careers beyond the research laboratory, with a particular interest in shaping public and policy debate. There are a variety of opportunities available. Government agencies, from foreign affairs ministries to drug regulators, seek individuals with technical training to help them implement policy and anticipate the implications of new technologies. Non-governmental advocacy groups and policy thinktanks need individuals who can interpret scientific findings in order to help them develop policy positions and influence politics. Scientists and engineers can help museums design their exhibits and participate in public outreach.

Given my own background in biology, and my transition from the sciences to the social sciences and policy, I am particularly motivated to help scientists and engineers consider these options and make this transition. From 2006 to 2011, I helped to create and co-directed the University of Michigan’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP) Program within the Ford School of Public Policy. The centerpiece of STPP is a certificate program designed for Masters and PhD students in any field. Students take required and elective courses on politics and policy related to science and technology, and can specialize in particular issues from the politics of research funding to biotechnology policy. The STPP certificate is designed to help scientists and engineers--including those with no background in politics, policy, social science, or the humanities--understand the basics of political process and the rules and institutions of the policy environment. It also exposes students to the cutting-edge questions facing policymakers in science and technology, including how research funding should be allocated, how governments should regulate emerging technologies, whether and how the public should influence science and technology policy decisions, and who should be considered an expert. With an STPP certificate, students are poised to participate in scientific advisory committees, pursue careers in science & technology policy, and communicate more effectively with the public. Graduates have gone on to win fellowships through the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science & Policy Program, the National Academy of Sciences, and the California Council on Science and Technology. They have taken positions related to science and technology policy in government agencies, at non-governmental organizations, and with private companies.

I have also given lectures to junior scientists and engineers on how to pursue a career in science and technology policy in a variety of settings including Baylor College of Medicine, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Arizona State University’s “Science Outside the Lab” Program, and the University of Michigan.

Over the past year I have also worked with students at the University of Michigan to develop a 1-week “bootcamp” in science and technology policy, targeting junior scientists and engineers.