By Colin Hemme
I’m coming from the world of a biochemistry graduate student that wants to be involved and act in places that make a difference. More specifically, I want to use the knowledge that I’ve obtained so far to help people and inform policy decisions around science. I’m politically active in terms of the news that I digest but those sources rarely give me information on science policy. Before I wrote this, I didn’t really have anywhere to go to be informed about new bills, weekly happenings in congress, and current issues people are concerned with. If you google “where can I find info about science policy”, all you get is a bunch of websites for government agencies with job descriptions. While that’s not bad if you’re looking for a job, it’s not incredibly helpful if you just want to hear about the latest news in science policy. Even my favorite trick of adding “reddit” to the end of every search came up with a community consensus that was really discussing the career aspect more than the news. So, as someone interested in science policy, I want to highlight some resources that I found through some deeper searching to get your daily dose of science policy information.
American Institute of Physics (AIP) “FYI” page
To start, if you search “science policy news” you will come across a lot of general articles, some lead to pages that post only once every two months and others are just general information about what science policy is. However, one result really stands out from the rest. The American Institute of Physics has a page called FYI which they call “an authoritative news and resource center for federal science policy”. It is an incredibly active page with tons of resources. The page has a bulletin where they post specific write ups on current happenings in a more focused manner along with a few other sections. One of my favorite sections is the “This Week” section where they break down everything that is happening for science policy for the week at the federal level. For the week of April 3rd, they go over the state of congress, updates for the development of a NASA program, and specifically detail seven bills that The House Science Committee pushed through. Being able to read that and see, what the bill is and what it covers is exactly the kind of information I was missing. If that wasn’t enough for you, they even have trackers on the website for seeing leadership in key science policy positions, updates on budgeting, and current bills, all for physical sciences. This is a great resource for looking at federal science policy. The only pitfall is that it focuses a lot of physical sciences, which, if you’re a life scientist like me, it leaves you craving for more about vaccine research, agricultural regulations, or other similar things. Another bonus to this one is they have an active Twitter page that you can follow so you can stay informed while you’re doing your regularly scheduled doom-scrolling.
Journals: Science and Nature
It may surprise you as it did me that there is a regularly updated section in some journals related to science policy. Journals like Science and Nature are wrapped into this section as they both kind of go over the same broad strokes science policy news. Unlike the first entry, Science and Nature tend to cover broad global science policy issues and general climate change reviews. One of the downsides of using these journals is just how broad it is, there are many topics across many fields and at the end of the day they don’t get into the weeds of the policy aspect of the science policy. It has a much broader focus on the problems at hand and not so much the solutions. This is a great place to search if you are looking to try your hand at a policy brief to get some good ideas. Another aspect to think about is not all of the articles are open access. I know in the near future this will change, but you should keep that in mind if you are lacking access to specific journals.
Let us immediately jump from the problems highlighted in journals to its contrast, the solutions. Research! America has a website and a newsletter that is focused on the funding of science and research. A great aspect of this one is that the newsletter has a specific focus on advocacy. Within the newsletter (it’s free and you can choose the features) you will not only get new developments in science funding news but also ways that you can get involved on a weekly basis. For example, this week there is a call to write an email to your senator advocating for increased National Institutes of Health funding – they even include an editable email to make your life that much easier. It’s a great resource for dipping your toes into some advocacy for science policy.
Union of Concerned Scientists
Not only do I love the name of this group, but they are also unique in that they are the only group I could find with a strong focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. They have many articles about many different topics, sometimes posting more than once a day. If you hunt through their website, they even have separate articles based on advocacy and what you can do based on some of the current issues happening. They have pieces on things like energy storage to assist people with disabilities during extreme weather events and how food corporations use the food stamps program SNAP to allow lower wages for workers. They even tackle events in other countries, unlike the others in this blog that are really America focused and almost a little too patriotic.
One thing I want to point out in this section is just how hard it was to find this group. I had to search “science news with a focus on disproportionate impacts” to find them. When you search “science policy news DEI”, it’s almost upsetting what comes up. You get a lot of university DEI statements (which is fine but not what I’m looking for), stories about DEI funding being cut, and middle/right leaning articles saying that DEI is unnecessary. There was even a Washington Post article that had this view. There needs to be more of a push to get diverse science, science that looks at disproportionate impacts, out for people to see. In a lot of ways, this is the kind of policy that will really make a difference for a lot of people. A lot of work has already been done to show the disproportionate impacts of various science related topics, there just needs to be more advocacy.
The internet and social media apps have connected us in a way that can be both good and bad. However, it is a useful tool when you seek out and follow the right sources for news. One resource I want to highlight is a Twitter profile called (@SciPolResources). Now this account doesn’t really post their own information, they just follow all the science policy accounts and retweet helpful information. If you have a broad interest in science policy, this is a great way to just get information in front of you to get into the field. If you are interested in more specific science policy news but don’t know what’s out there, you can read through the long list of accounts that Science Policy Resources follows. With this you can find all types of specific institutions, topic centered accounts, and minority led groups that all deal in science policy. If you go to the , you can do a similar thing there if you are Wisconsin-based (this is not a shameless plug for the Twitter I swear).
For this blog, I wanted to give at least one more “medium” to engage with science policy. There really seems to be a lack of video essay youtubers in the field of science policy, which is more my thing, so I turned to podcasts next. In my search, I found a podcast that does interviews with science policy people and discusses science policy issues called The podcast is made by The Science Advice For Policy By European Academies (SAPEA), which is a group for science communication funded by the European Union. I listened to an episode interviewing Dr. Christiane Gerblinger discussing competing interests in accurate science dissemination and gaining maximum political impact. The episodes are generally at a good length and the discussion is informative in terms of thinking about science policy with real world examples. If this one is not your cup of tea, there are various other podcasts around science policy, some general and others out of specific universities.
I did want to include two honorable mentions because they either don’t totally fit the scope of the blog, or they are not what I consider inclusive. To start, The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has a policy alert email newsletter that you can sign up for provided you are a member. I’m sure it’s a wonderful service given how great AAAS is for science policy but not everyone can accommodate the $25 member fee. The other resource is a giant spreadsheet created by the National Science Policy Network (NSPN). This spreadsheet has info on anyone or anything about science policy. It has a list of conferences, fellowships, job boards, outreach work, journals, helpful readings, and trainings you can look at. However, while an amazing resource, it can be quite overwhelming when you’re just trying to dip your toes in like it was for me.
I hope that from this write-up you will have a few pages or accounts saved so that you can start some uptake of science policy news. I know that these resources are certainly going to help me get into the topic and understand it better. Hopefully from there, we can all be informed enough to take action, advocate, and get involved in the world of science policy.