PAOC Spotlights

Beyond PAOC - MIT Student Policy Initiative

Fri October 14th, 2011

Educating to shrink the gap between scientists and the policy they can inform: MIT Science Policy Initiative


The MIT Science Policy Initiative (SPI) is a student-run group interested in educating students in the policies governing science research and innovation along with exploring how science and engineering can inform policy decisions. It is also interested in supporting and facilitating students' direct engagement in the science policy arena.

" Though graduate students rightly focus on our their own research in the lab, it is also important to understand how this research is supported by a broader framework of federal science and innovation policy, as well as how science and technology inform many of the decisions that face policymakers on a daily basis " - Dan Chavas.Once a year, scientists and engineers convene in Washington, D.C. to discuss science and technology policy issues with their representatives in Congress. The program's aim is to convey to our elected officials the importance of science and technology funding. Policy makers from federal and non-governmental organizations, such as the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology, teach participants about current organizational goals, funding issues, and policy priorities.

Over the past four years, MIT has sent nearly 50 students to CVD. MIT's delegation is unique in that it is entirely comprised of students, who can directly articulate the need for government-funded undergraduate and graduate level research opportunities. In years past, student involvement has garnered tremendously positive responses from Congressional offices.

The Science Policy Bootcamp is a 4-day short course, offered during MIT's Independent Activities Period in January, designed to introduce graduate students and post-doctoral fellows to the 'nuts and bolts' of science policy making. The course provides an opportunity for young scientists and engineers interested in science policy issues to increase their understanding about and practical involvement with science policy. The bootcamp serves to both expose participants to the fundamental structure and dynamics of science policy and inform them of routes into a policy experience or career.

In years past, student involvement has garnered tremendously positive responses from Congressional offices. For example, in 2010 SPI's efforts helped sway Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown from skeptic to co-sponsor of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act.

Want to find out more? Contact Dan Chavas or Kat Saad. Just like PAOC, You can also follow SPI on Facebook.