June Newsletter

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Policy Writing Game Night
July 11th, 4:30 PM, 1105 Beckman Institute

The UIUC Science Policy Group invites you to join our inaugural policy writing game night on July 11th at 4:30 pm at 1005 Beckman Institute! Groups of participants will craft basic science policies around proposed scenarios (e.g. national security, public health, environment, etc). Then, groups will have an informal debate to discuss their ideas. These games will allow participants to develop the fundamentals behind writing policy in a casual setting. Dr Clifford Singer, the Director of the Program in Arms Control and Domestic and International Security at UIUC, will moderate the event. Refreshments will be provided!

New York Academy of Sciences Panel: Science Denialism, Public Policy, and Global Health
June 28th, 6:00 PM, live stream link here

From climate change denial, to vaccine fears, to the rejection of the viral cause of HIV/AIDS, science denial has devastating implications for global health. This evening panel discussion for the general public will raise awareness of this issue, explore its causation, and provide a transparent dialogue for enacting meaningful responses to denialism today. The panel will be live streamed on Jun 28th at 6:00 pm and can be viewed here.

S|GNS (Science | Government, Institutions & Society) Summit
July 6-8, Chicago IL

The S|GNS summit is a network-wide meeting for emerging and established leaders across fields to share knowledge, build community, and develop their skills as science advocates, educators, and organizers. It will be held in Chicago, IL on July 6-8, 2018 and is an initiative of March for Science and will be co-hosted by the Field Museum and Hilton Chicago. It is going to be a weekend full of networking, skill-building, and idea-sharing at the intersection of science and society. In addition to talks, there will be workshops, panels, a project expo, and a number of community-building events! The registration fee will be waived for SPG participants–please contact Robby Goldman at rgoldma3@illinois.edu if you are interested in attending!

Connect with us

Follow updates from our group on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and WordPress.

Join one of our committees

All of our committees are recruiting new members! If you are interested in having an active role in planning SPG’s 2018 events, email spg.uiuc@gmail.com for more details!

Advocating for Science on Capitol Hill

(Robby Goldman–Advocacy Committee Chair, Science Policy Group at UIUC)

I visited Washington, D.C. several times in the past few months to meet with the offices of my members of Congress. I first visited in September 2017 as a participant of the American Geosciences Institute’s (AGI) Geoscience Congressional Visits Days (Geo-CVD). I then returned in March for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop. Finally, I participated in the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Voices for Science workshop in April. From these trips, I have gained valuable experience interacting with Congressional staff (as well as my Congressman), and came away with a better understanding of my representatives’ priorities and how certain science-based policies fit within their goals.

The objective of each of my trips was to encourage my Senators and Congressman to support increases in science funding commensurate with inflation. Federal support is necessary for sustaining critical, cutting-edge research projects, which are often multi-year endeavors. My own research team, the Volcano Geophysics Lab at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), has been improving methods for predicting when and where volcanic eruptions will occur, a topic of recent national interest thanks to the vigorous eruptive activity of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. Our research team’s efforts are guided by years of work conducted by our advisor, Dr. Trish Gregg, and her colleagues, and federal funding is necessary for sustaining many of the scientific discoveries that our team has and will continue to make over the coming years.

Members of UIUC’s Volcano Geophysics Lab at the 2017 IAVCEI volcanology conference

Strong and consistent federal science funding is also critical for supporting thousands of young scientists, like myself, across the country through research grants and fellowships. My team’s volcanology research, for example, is funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). In fact, three years of my graduate study will be supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Moreover, as a top (R1) research institution, the University of Illinois has been awarded the most NSF funding of any university for the last six years, which supports thousands of student and faculty scientists.

Given the importance of federal science funding, I was shocked and dismayed in early 2017 when President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposed cuts for numerous science agencies, including NASA (3%) and NSF (11%). Several other Earth science agencies received cuts, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA—16%), the United States Geological Survey (USGS—15%), the Department of Energy (DOE—9%), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA—31%). It was these proposed cuts, and my fear that scientific enterprise was no longer a national priority, that motivated me to visit Washington, D.C.—for the first time—and communicate my concerns to my representatives.

My first visit to the Capitol Building

While in D.C., I learned about the federal budget process, Congressional Committees’ roles in legislating science policies, federal agencies’ roles in enacting those policies, and tips for conducting successful meetings with members of Congress and their staff. I also networked with other politically-engaged scientists and exchanged ideas on promoting science advocacy. Most importantly, I had multiple meetings with the offices of my Illinois representatives: Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Tammy Duckworth, and Representative Rodney Davis (IL 13th District).

The main goal of the meetings was to encourage my members of Congress to support strong and sustained federal science funding, particularly in the geosciences. I conducted these meetings with several other students, usually from the same state or geographic region, and a government-relations liaison. Most meetings were with Congressional staff, who, although less recognized than members of Congress, have a deeper understanding of the very policies that their bosses debate and vote on.

UIUC and Northwestern University students with Mark Copeland (center; Legislative Assistant to Senator Duckworth); 2018 AAAS CASE workshop

Some staffers, like Lauren Aycock, are themselves scientists! I had the pleasure of meeting Lauren—a Congressional Science Fellow for Senator Durbin—twice in D.C. and once at my university campus. We discussed federal science funding, Lauren’s experience as a Congressional Science Fellow, and the importance of sharing stories of our scientific research with both policymakers and the public.

Outside of Senator Durbin’s office after meeting with L.A. Maggie Angel (left) and Congressional Science Fellow Lauren Aycock (right); 2018 AGU Voices for Science workshop

I also had the pleasure of discussing Hawaii’s volcano policy with James Chang, the Science and Technology Legislative Assistant (L.A.) to Senator Brian Schatz. Meeting with James gave me a better appreciation for the role that my research, and that of countless other volcanologists, plays in keeping Hawaii’s residents and tourists safe from volcanic hazards.

Inside of Senator Schatz’s office after meeting with L.A. James Chang; 2018 AGU Voices for Science workshop

While almost all my Congressional meetings have been with staff, I had the distinct privilege of meeting my Congressman, Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL 13th District), in March. Joined by three other UIUC students, we discussed the importance of increasing research and development funding for driving innovation in both our country and Congressional district.

UIUC students with Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL 13th District); 2018 AAAS CASE workshop

From my meetings, I was heartened to learn that science funding is a bipartisan priority. In fact, just two days after my March visit, all my members of Congress passed a spending bill that increased funding for most science agencies for Fiscal Year 2018! Of the six I listed previously—NASA, NSF, NOAA, USGS, DOE, and EPA—none received cuts to their total budgets, and all but the EPA received increases. I feel proud to have played a small, yet valuable, part in defending federal science funding for this calendar year, especially considering that my Illinois colleagues and I had to brave a snowstorm—on the first day of spring—to make some of those meetings possible!

Illinois cohort braving the snow outside the Hart Senate Office Building; 2018 AAAS CASE workshop

We are part of an ever-growing community of scientists who are vocally expressing their support for pro-science policies. Regardless of your familiarity with science advocacy, you too can make an impact! AGU’s science policy website is a great resource (https://sciencepolicy.agu.org/), and I strongly encourage attendees of AGU’s Fall Meeting to schedule meetings with their members of Congress! Together, we can use our voices and expertise to benefit science, scientists and the public here in the United States of America.

Enjoying a view of the Capitol, and the long-awaited arrival of spring, in between meetings; 2018 AGU Voices for Science workshop

May Newsletter

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Inform Committee Meeting
Help us organize lectures by science policy scholars and practitioners by attending our Inform Committee Meeting this Wednesday, May 9 from 5 – 5:45 PM. Please e-mail the committee chair in advance for the location on campus. Contact Sudharsan Dwaraknath at dwarakn2@illinois.edu.

Date: Wednesday May 9
Time: 5- 5:45 PM
Location: For more details, email dwarakn2@illinois.edu

Union of Concerned Scientists Webinar Screening- How to Organize an Event that Makes an Impact!
Come join your fellow SPG members and learn how we can enhance our events and our group! The webinar will include discussion on the types of events that will help achieve our goals, get the attention of our elected officials, and have the most impact on federal or local science-based policies! Plus recruiting people for our events and ensuring that participants feel inspired and are able to stay involved.

Date: Wednesday May 16
Time: 6pm
Location: A446 CLSL

Please sign-up here so we have an estimated number for food/refreshments!
If you wish to screen remotely on your own you can register with UCS here.

Upcoming Celebration of our Graduating SPG members!
We are planning a celebration the week of May 14 to thank and celebrate our graduating SPG members! We’d like to hold a happy hour to wish them well on the next chapter of their lives! If you are graduating and want to take part please fill in your information here.
Please keep an eye out on Slack and Facebook for announcement regarding this developing event!

Date: TBA (week of May 14)
Time: TBA
Location: TBA

Policy Writing Game
The Science Policy Group will be hosting a summer policy writing game similar to a model UN activity in July 2018. Dr. Clifford Singer, the Director of the Program in Arms Control and Domestic and International Security at UIUC, will act as moderator for the event. SPG members will gather into groups, and will be presented with a scenario on which they must craft a very basic piece of science policy. Students will then debate and refine their crafted policy with the advice of the moderator as well as more experienced members of the science policy group. This event will give members an opportunity to explore the fundamentals and complexities behind policy writing in an informal and fun setting. Refreshments will be provided.

When and where: July 2018 (Location, date, and time TBD)

MRSEC event – The Intro: Connection is a Choice
Illinois MRSEC presents a plenary by an expert from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.
This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. This plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication. Participants will be actively engaged in improvisation exercises and will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work.

Date: Friday May 18
Time: 1:00-2:30 pm
Location: 204 Loomis (Physics Interaction Room)

Join one of our committees!
All of our committees are recruiting new members! If you are interested in having an active role in planning SPG’s 2018 events, email us at spg.uiuc@gmail.com for more details!

Connect with us!
Follow updates from our group on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and WordPress!

Connection is a Choice

Illinois MRSEC presents a plenary by an expert from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. This interactive session introduces participants to general principles in how to craft short, clear, conversational statements, intelligible to non-scientists, about what you do and why it matters. The session consists of an interactive presentation and discussion on interpreting technical material using examples and analogies to illuminate unfamiliar concepts to your audience. This plenary will address problems and solutions in public interactions as well as peer-to-peer communication. Participants will be actively engaged in improvisation exercises and will practice clarity in speaking to non-scientists about their work.

Friday, May 18 at 1 PM – 2:30 PM

204 Loomis (Physics Interactive Room)

https://www.facebook.com/events/2019011611690340/

Advice from the Fellowship Workshop

On March 12, the Science Policy Group Professional Development Committee ran a Science Policy Fellowship Workshop with the Graduate College Office of External Fellowships. This workshop was primarily focused on the application process and an overview of the prestigious AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, with two former recipients of the fellowship presenting about their personal experiences during their time in the program. The event began with Dr. Karen Ruhleder from the Office of External Fellowships providing an introduction on some of the major science policy fellowships available, and then discussing the application process, deadlines, and some tips for writing personal statements tailored to science policy instead of scientific research. Then, former AAAS Fellow and current Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Dr. Gay Miller, gave a short presentation regarding her own personal experiences during the program. In particular, Dr. Miller was able to provide insight in to working with the USDA, as that was where she was appointed to work during her fellowship; she also provided insight in to the hurdles that you may face as a scientist first transitioning in to a role in science policy and government, as the pace and expectations are very different. Additionally, she touched on how she has adapted her teaching and career path because of her experiences as a fellow and gave high praise for the program, further encouraging those interested to apply. Following Dr. Miller’s presentation, Dr. Melissa Cragin discussed her experiences as a AAAS Fellow with a placement in the National Science Foundation Directorate for the Biological Sciences. Like Dr. Miller, Dr. Cragin had high praise for the fellowship program and was adamant that those interested should apply (and apply more than once if you are unsuccessful the first time). She also recommended that those are accepted for an interview ask plenty of questions of their potential employer in terms of the structure of the leadership in that particular office, opportunities for travel, and the number and types of projects that the fellow will be asked to work on, as those vary widely and can greatly impact the fellow’s experience. Finally, Dr. Cragin mentioned that some of the agencies hire on their fellows to stay after their term and you are able to network a great deal during the fellowship, so this can easily lead to a job opportunity.

Overall, the two presenters were very enthusiastic and motivating! They had only positive things to say about the fellowship experience, and encouraged anyone interested to reach out to them regarding specific questions. Additionally, they both were very interested in participating in future SPG events and were happy to be able to share their knowledge with us!

Springfield Trip

The Science Policy Group will be taking 12 students to Springfield on April 24th to meet with legislators to argue against HB 5134, a bill that would keep eight uneconomical coal plants in business by raising our electricity bills by $115/year. These coal plants, owned by Texas’ Dynegy Inc., emitted 32 million tons of carbon dioxide this year.

Attendees are expected to be available from 7:30am-6pm on April 24th, and should plan to bring money for breakfast and lunch. Business formal attire is also required (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9u3uGNuqIA).

Please note, due to limited seating, only members of the Science Policy Group can officially go on this trip as a part of SPG.

March Newsletter

View our newsletter online

How to Write your Representative

Want to make a positive impact on Congressional science policy, but unsure how? Come to our evening workshop and learn how to write a personalized letter to your Congressional Representative! The workshop will be led by J.C. Kibbey, Midwest Outreach and Policy Advocate at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Food and drink will be provided. More information here.

Date: Wednesday, March 7th
Time: 4:00-5:50 pm
Location: English Building, Room 108

Get-out-the-vote

The March primary elections are just around the corner! Your vote is crucial for positively impacting science-based policy. Early voting begins March 13th, the Tuesday before Spring Break, at several locations, including Illini Union Room 213. Polling places will be open every day from March 13th through March 20th. Voter registration instructions, voter guide, and polling locations will be posted on our facebook event page here.

Fellowship Workshop

Interested in learning more about national science policy fellowships? Come join us and previous AAAS Science Policy Fellowship recipients Dr. Gay Miller and Dr. Melissa Cragin for a workshop providing first-hand insight in to one of the premier science policy fellowships! We will also provide an overview of some of the major science policy fellowships, application dates to know, and tips on how to strengthen your application over the summer. More information here.

Date: Monday, March 12th
Time: 3:30-5:00 pm
Location: ACES Library Monsanto Room

Join one of our committees!

All of our committees are recruiting new members! If you are interested in having an active role in planning SPG’s 2018 events, contact Suds Dwaraknath (dwarakn2@illinois.edu – Inform Committee), Libby Haywood (mayberr3@illinois.edu – Professional Development Committee), or Robby Goldman (rgoldma3@illinois.edu – Advocacy Committee) for more details!

Advice from Kacy Redd

Kacy Redd is the Assistant Vice President of STEM Education Policy at Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU). Here are some great resources that she has to share about how to make the jump from PhD programs into policy or other nontraditional careers:

  • This posting on ASBMB has good advice for scientists transitioning to policy.
  • This article is for scientists interested in community management.
  • Lou Woodley has lots of blog posts on this topic here and an interview here.
  • There are some case studies are here.

Feel free to reach out to Kacy with any questions at KRedd@aplu.org!

New legislation and the purpose of witness slips

Keep reading to see some policy in action that relates to graduate students!

Daniel Biss is introducing legislation tomorrow (SB2546) that would expand the definition of a graduate employee to include RA’s and not just TA’s This means RAs would be legally allowed to unionize. They are having a hearing about it tomorrow morning at 10:30 in Springfield. If you would like to show support for this bill, fill out a witness slip online using this link (representing yourself, not SPG please).

Witness slips show a person or group’s position on a particular bill. They are a vital piece of the legislative process because, before a bill is heard in committee, the chairperson will read who has submitted witness slips and whether they support or oppose the bill. This helps inform legislators as to where people stand, allowing informed decisions when voting. Witness slips are a great and relatively quick way to make your voice heard in state government.

See everyone that has submitted slips here.

Here is a link to the bill if you would like to read more about it (Ctrl-F “research”).