Why I decided to STEPUP

(Join BU’s new Science and TEchnology in PUblic Policy group!)

When life after my PhD started to become a reality, I decided to explore careers away from the bench. “Science policy” kept surfacing to the top of my career surveys and internet searches. It was an appealing phrase—I like science (obviously!) and I’m interested in politics and the bigger role of science in society.

The problem was, I always found myself thinking, “What exactly IS science policy?”

Specifically: What is it like being a science policy professional on a day-to-day basis? What training would I need to be qualified for average policy jobs? How about for the best jobs? Would I need to move to Washington DC, or are there opportunities elsewhere? Was this a career in which I’d be able to significantly help others?

These are straightforward questions, but it was surprisingly hard to find deep answers to some of them. I didn’t know anyone who had pursued science policy personally, and back when I started considering my next career move, “alternative careers” still largely meant “working in industry instead of academia.”

Fortunately, information on true alternatives has become more widely available. Through BU’s BEST, a group of students and postdocs have started the science policy group dubbed Boston University Science and Technology in Public Policy—“STEPUP.” Our stated mission is threefold: to promote understanding of the role of science in dictating policy both nationally and internationally, to support interested graduate students and post-docs on the path to developing a career in policy, and to communicate the importance of science-led initiatives in legislation to the general public. To these ends, we have wide-ranging plans that include community outreach (e.g., science cafés), inviting science policy experts to BU for talks, hosting student-led round table policy discussions, and sponsoring career exploration activities.

In STEPUP, we are helping each other learn the ins and outs of the policy world, and implementing projects with large-scale impact. These are two goals which are personally important to me, and which I wasn’t able to do by myself.

I know I’m not the only scientist who is attracted to the idea of making a positive difference in the world. Whether you’re aiming to make a difference with your career in the future, or are eager to help people in a concrete way during the course of your studies, the STEPUP community can help you transform your curiosity and good intentions into action.

Our next meeting is 1/20/16 in 2 Cummington Mall, Rm109 at 5pm, and will feature a discussion on policies concerning artificial intelligence. We welcome any questions, and can be reached through one of our members at erinbf@bu.edu.

We hope you will join us!