On a warm evening in the fall of 2009, I somewhat unexpectedly found myself at a book-reading in a little bookstore in Somerville, Massachusetts. The author, science journalist Chris Mooney, made such a compelling case that I bought the book that night. That book, "Unscientific America", by Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum, revealed to me a startling gap, a failure of communication between the community of scientists and those who stand to benefit from the scientific knowledge that they carry. I was particularly interested in the role of science in informing public policy, and conversely the role of policy in shaping the course of science. In the last three years, I have been lucky enough to work with several groups which share this passion, and I hope to continue working to bridge the gap between the science and policy communities for many years to come.
The first, and certainly the most important source of information and inspiration in my science policy career has been the MIT Science Policy Initiative. A student-founded, student-run group of graduate students at MIT, SPI offers extraordinary opportunities to anyone interested in learning more about the role that scientists and engineers play in the policy world.
Much of my science policy effort of late has been focused on Stand With Science, a project founded by myself, and fellow SPI members Samuel Brinton, and Mike Henninger (with a great deal of inspiration and guidance from then-SPI president Johanna Wolfson). In the fall of 2011, the three of us put together a letter to the members of Congress, urging them to keep investment in science and engineering research a top priority in the increasingly acrimonious deficit debate. As part of the Stand With Science project, with the help of dozens of volunteers at MIT and across the country, I wrote, filmed, and edited a three minuted video (shown at right), urging graduate students, young researchers, and all supporters of science to sign the Stand With Science letter.
Since then, the letter has been signed by over 10,600 people, with signatories in all 50 states; the Stand With Science videos have been viewed a total of over 14,000 times; the Stand With Science story was picked up by the New York Times, Scientific American, Chemical and Engineering News, Biotechniques, and the Chronicle of Higher Education; and the Stand With Science letter was delivered in person to six congressional offices in March 2012. The work of Stand With Science, however, is far from over. The three of us, along with a newly expanded leadership team, are now working to build Stand With Science into a permanent and vibrant community, where supporters of science – particularly young scientists, graduate students, post-docs, undergraduates, and professional students – can stay engaged in a political process in which they have too long been silent.Science, Technolgy and Policy Crossroads; or as it's more often referred to, the Crossroads. The Crossroads is an inter-university initiative working to bring together departments, student groups, and non-profits working at the intersection of the science, technology, and policy communities in the Boston area. Between the summer of 2010 and the summer of 2011, I served as executive director of the Crossroads, scheduling meetings, coordinating an organizing committee of a dozen members and overseeing the planning of the first annual STP Crossroads fall mixer and the 2nd Annual STP Crossroads symposium. Since its inception in late 2009, the Crossroads has hosted three annual symposia; the most recent, Layers of Uncertainty, focused on how the different communities deal with uncertainty, and featured a keynote address by Rear Adimral Ali Khan, Director of Public Health Preparedness and Response for the CDC and former Assistant Surgeon General.