A Match Made in Science Policy Heaven

Everyone knows someone who has dived fearlessly into the world of online dating and found the perfect match.  But did you know that the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) plays matchmaker between federal agencies and scientists who are interested in getting their feet wet in the science policy arena?

Here at NIH, we host up to 40 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows each year.  This one-year fellowship provides the opportunity for scientists from a wide range of disciplines and career levels to experience the (science policy) sausage making process à la NIH, while at the same time bringing a wealth of scientific and analytical expertise to the table.  Since this is the time of year when all the action happens, it seemed like an ideal time to tell you about how this program works.

As you can imagine, the whole operation requires considerable coordination, and OSP is responsible for managing NIH’s involvement in the program.  In February and March, the Fellowship cycle begins, and we work to recruit offices from across NIH who are interested in potentially hosting a Fellow. One of the most challenging parts of our job comes next during April’s placement week.  During that week, Fellowship finalists converge on Washington en masse, and dash from agency-to-agency to participate in interviews with potential host offices (think of a cross between speed dating and a steeple chase!).  This all culminates in a matching process, where we work with AAAS to place finalists within NIH host offices.As you might imagine, only the best matches are placed across NIH’s Institutes and Centers, as well as within the Office of the NIH Director.  Fellows find homes in a range of different NIH offices that are engaged in policy, planning, communication, outreach, legislative affairs, program administration, and evaluation, to name but a few.

Once matching has concluded, the real work can then begin.  OSP works with the host offices, AAAS and the incoming Fellows, to begin the onboarding process in preparation for the Fellow’s first day in September.  When the Fellows arrive, OSP provides an NIH orientation to bring everyone up-to speed and then assists throughout the year in making the Fellows and host offices aware of the various AAAS and NIH program requirements.

Having worked closely with many of the AAAS Fellows (as well as having several OSP staff as alumni of the program) I see the Fellowship as a valuable tool in advancing NIH’s mission by fostering productive relationships between federal policy makers and scientific professionals.  I like to look at the OSP role in this as making sure that the relationships forged through this program begin and remain strong!  For more information about our involvement with the program please visit the OSP website.

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