Logo POLITICAL SCENE November 1997

Congressional Fellows: Scientists in a Strange Land

Each September, more than two dozen scientists are turned into congressional staffers through the alchemy of the Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship program. For over 20 years, these fellowships have proven an effective means of injecting scientific understanding into the legislative process while improving the scientific community's understanding of the political process and how it affects them.
For some fellows, working for Congress is their first postdoctoral appointment; for others, it is a midcareer change of course. For all, it is a tremendous learning experience and opportunity to make a difference.
The program is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which provides fellows with a two- week orientation, helps them find placement in a congressional office, and organizes events for them throughout the year. Although AAAS coordinates the program, other scientific and engineering societies fund and select participants for all but two of the fellowships.
Sponsoring organizations include three American Geological Institute (AGI) member societies: the Geological Society of America (GSA) jointly with the U.S. Geological Survey; the American Geophysical Union (AGU); and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) jointly with several other agricultural science societies. Thanks to the generous support of the AGI Foundation, the institute will add to the geoscience contingent, supporting a congressional fellow for the 1998-99 year (September-August).

The Current Crop

Many of the 1996-97 fellows finished their stint on Capitol Hill in August, but some are still at work there. GSA Fellow Tamara Nameroff extended her year on the staff of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D- Conn.) in part to help prepare the senator for his participation in next month's international global climate conference in Kyoto, Japan. Nameroff, a marine geochemist with a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, has focused on environmental technology issues.
Nameroff is joined in the Senate by 1997-98 GSA Fellow Dave Verardo. Verardo spent the last six years as a research professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia where he studied carbon cycling in marine and terrestrial sediments. Before his academic career, he worked as a geological consultant. As a fellow, he is focusing on environmental, natural resource, and maritime issues for freshman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, Environment and Public Works, Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Budget committees.
Jack Herring spent his year as the AGU fellow working for Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.), vice-chair of the House Science Committee. Ehlers, one of a handful of Ph.D. scientists in Congress, is a former research physicist who became involved in politics by serving as an informal science adviser to Rep. Gerald Ford, whose district he now represents. Herring holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric chemistry from the University of Washington, a background that proved useful when compliance with new Clean Air Act regulations on ozone and fine particulate matter became a major issue for Ehlers' rural district. Herring is now at the University of Maryland on a National Science Foundation education research fellowship to develop an interdisciplinary college course on global climate change.
Herring is succeeded by Julie Moses, a space physicist most recently at the University of London. While working for The Aerospace Corporation in the late 1980s, she became interested in policy out of curiosity over what imperative for funding science might replace national defense as the Cold War waned. She works for the House International Relations Committee.
A soil scientist will be one of the two fellows sponsored this coming year by agricultural science societies. Curtis Dell received his Ph.D. in soil microbiology from Kansas State University this past summer, where he studied tallgrass prairie soils. His fellowship year begins in January, and he has not yet chosen a placement on the Hill. He hopes to work on environmental issues related to agriculture, including water quality and remediation of polluted soils.

A Career Pathway in Science Policy

Over the years, the congressional fellows program has been one of the few clear pathways for scientists interested in science policy as a career. Following their fellowship, about a third of the fellows return to the job they held before their year on the Hill, a third stay in Washington, and a third follow different paths, many of them policy-related. To cite just one example, the interim director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Mark Schaefer, was a fellow with the now-defunct congressional Office of Technology Assessment. The fellowship program will continue to develop a corps of policy- savvy scientists who can provide technical input into the political process and raise the political awareness of their scientific peers.

David Applegate

American Geological Institute

AGI Director of Government Affairs,
Applegate is a former AGU congressional fellow.

For more information on this and other science policy issues, visit the AGI Government Affairs home page.

AGI announces congressional fellowship

The American Geological Institute (AGI) is pleased to offer a new Congressional Science Fellowship for the geosciences funded by the AGI Foundation. The successful candidate will spend a year (September 1998 - August 1999) working as a staff member in the office of a member of Congress or for a congressional committee.
Prospective applicants should have a broad geoscience background and excellent written and oral communications skills. Minimum requirements are a master's degree with at least three years of post-degree work experience or a Ph.D. at the time of appointment. Although prior experience in public policy is not necessary, a demonstrable interest in applying science to the solution of public problems is desirable. The fellowship carries a stipend up to $42,000.
Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and a curriculum vitae with three letters of reference to AGI Congressional Science Fellowship, 4220 King St., Alexandria, Va. 22302-1502. For further details, visit the AGI web site or e-mail All application materials must be postmarked by Feb. 1, 1998. EOE

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program

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