How is policy created and why is it important for researchers to be involved?

capitol buildingIt is important for researchers from all disciplines to become aware how policy is made and to influence decisions that affect society and the world. Economic development, research funding for knowledge generation, sustainability, and technological advances all depend on research informing policymakers and policies that affect research.

As scientific and technological discoveries continue to change our world and society at a rapid pace, it has become imperative that our policymaking approach also be informed by science. From energy policy to climate change, from health care to bioterrorism, from science education to technology innovation, it has become critical to also have professional scientists and engineers actively engaged in the policymaking process. However, a fundamental issue facing today's government is the fact that too few researchers, especially scientists, have experience with the inner workings of public policymaking and too few policymakers have significant science or engineering knowledge. This large gap between the two fields needs to be bridged if we are to have a society where scholarly research and science influence the course we take.

Whether your research is on health disparities, sustainability, biomedical engineering, family and consumer policy, environmental conservation, personalized medicine, or evolutionary biology, policy affects you and your research outcomes. The video, "The Startling Conclusion about Problems in Federal Science Policy: It's Our Fault" features Former Congressional Fellow and Optics Society of America member Chris Schaffer of Cornell University.

Public Policy Databases (Cornell community access only)


Look over some of the core qualifications and competencies of executive leaders that you can aspire to and build experiences in: leading change, leading people, results driven, business acumen, building coalitions. 

Get involved in science advocacy and expose yourself to how the government works.

Many professional societies offer one year experiences in Washington to inform firsthand the nation's science policy. Follow them to learn about deadlines and application requirements. Here are but a few examples of more concise experiences for which Careers Beyond Academia/BEST has sponsored individuals interested in policy careers to attend. See the spotlights for participant impressions. If you are a PhD student or postdoc at Cornell, you are eligible to apply for funding to attend.

  • AIBS Public Policy: The Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is held throughout the months of August and September each year. Participating scientists either meet with their elected officials at the local district office or may invite them to visit their research facility. Participants are prepared for their meeting through an interactive webinar program and with a policymaker by AIBS Public Policy Office staff. See also their Communications Bootcamp for Scientists.
  • AIMBE Public Policy Institute for Rising Leaders: The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) 2-day training is designed to educate grad students, postdocs, and fellows in medical and biological engineering about the policy landscape that surrounds health and regulatory science.  Attendees learn from some of Washington's top insiders about the role of policy in shaping the scientific enterprise. Top government officials, industry representatives, and senior leaders at the FDA lead discussions on topics such as 'science, technology, healthcare and the courts' and 'the role of critical NGO stakeholders in shaping policy'. Participants engage with experts in science and health policy through keynote talks and panel presentations. They have the opportunity to network with AIMBE's FDA Scholars, as well as Fellows from the FDA.
  • ASBMB Hill Day: The Public Affairs Advisory Committee sponsors an annual Hill Day, during which students and postdocs from around the country come to Washington D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives. Participants partake in a "Policy 101" training session before breaking into small groups for a full day of congressional meetings.
  • AMS Congressional Visits, Summer Colloquium: Learn about the many opportunities available through the American Meteorological Society
  • Catalyzing Advocacy for Science and Engineering (CASE): Takes place in April at AAAS Headquarters, Washington, D.C.. A coalition of scientific and engineering societies, universities, and academic organizations has created an exciting opportunity for participants in STEM disciplines to learn about science policy and advocacy. Students are selected by their institution to participate in the workshop and spend a few days learning about the structure and organization of Congress, the federal budget and appropriations process, and tools for effective science communication and civic engagement. Cornell assists with scheduling visits to Capitol Hill, and usually accompany participants during those visits. Read the reactions from the students who participated in the inaugural event in this AAAS story. 
  • Women in Stem Policy Seminar: An annual seminar organized by the Public Leadership Education Network (PLEN) to prepare women for leadership in the public policy arena.

The need for rigorously trained policy-makers

Professional societies, international organizations, charities, lobby groups, government bodies, think tanks and non-governmental organizations all need specialists working on policy.

Internships can help you get your foot in the door to a career in policy

The Convergence Center for Policy Resolution focuses on solving social and policy challenges.

Clubs and Courses

Advancing Science And Policy (ASAP) Grad Student Organization

ASAP was co-founded by Chelsea Gregg, and has been run by Careers Beyond Academia/BEST participants ever since. Read the ASAP blog here. This group is dedicated to training researchers and graduate students to share the value and significance of their work with policy makers. Members develop skills and professional networks through regular workshops, faculty chats, and invited speakers. Members learn to communicate with policy makers and the general public about the role of scientific input in advancing policy and society. ASAP supports writing initiatives, organizes trips to Washington D.C. or Albany, meets with policy makers, and advocates for issues of interest. Contact ASAP.

Science Policy Hands-on Courses

BME 4440: Science Policy Bootcamp: From Concept to Conclusion 3cr. Developed by Chris Schaffer (then co-Principal Investigator of the NIH BEST grant) and postdoctoral scholar Catharine Young with the help of an Engaged Cornell Faculty Fellowship

NTRES 4300: Environmental Policy Processes 3cr. Barbara Bedford & Clifford Kraft (Limited to 20. Application in the fall with November meeting dates, a long week in January in Washington, D.C. and spring meeting times)

Cornell Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future

This Washington Policy briefing series features faculty experts who contribute information and analysis without political agenda to some of today’s most salient topics.These briefings provide broad and responsible coverage of the scientific debates behind the political debates.

Policy Research Links

Policymaking Newsfeeds

Keep abreast of key issues being discussed that keep policymakers up at night. Become part of the conversation.

Political News

The Hill:  keep track of politics (elections, news) and policy (energy, telecom, healthcare…)

Roll Call: Capitol Hill and DC news

Politico: political news about campaigns, Congress, lobbyists and issues

Government Agencies & Non-Profits

NIH News: timely news on health, biomedical discoveries and policy

NSF News: news on various scientific fields, education, and societal implications

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): reports on science regulation and initiatives from the White House

Government Affairs Industry Network (GAIN) briefs

Council of Graduate Schools Public Policy & Advocacy

Professional Societies & Publishers

AAAS Policy News: a must for timely policy news. Consider other categories too for science updates

Nature News: another must for policy news and science breakthroughs, they also have a brief you can sign up for

American Society of Agronomy: policy issues related to environmental and agricultural sciences

Association of American Medical Colleges Government Affairs and Advocacy

National Science Policy Network

Engaging Scientists and Engineers in Policy Coalition

See additional professional societies on other tabs in this LibGuide

Additional Resources

ASBMB Policy Blotter: policy blog and news related to biochemistry and molecular biology

The Innovation Files: a blog on government, technology, industry and innovation

The Pew Charitable Trusts: Check out their news section and their research and analysis section

Green Tech Media: news and opinion on energy industry and policy. Find out about state-level energy policy news that wouldn’t make a splash in big media outlets

Careers Beyond Academia Mentors for Policy-related careers

Reaching out to people for informational interviews can help you decide where you want to go after your PhD or postdoctoral training at Cornell. Contact us at for an introduction, or feel free to reach out to them directly! Many are Cornell alumni, and all are eager to help give advice. Most have either spoken at or participated in our programming over the years and are aware and supportive of helping doctoral students and postdoctoral scholars learn more about policy careers and skills needed for success in this sector.

  • Mark Bayer, Bayer Strategic
  • Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Vice President, Research Intelligence, Global Strategic Networks at Elsevier
  • Cristina Fernandez-Baca PhD'18, US Department of State AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
  • Portia Flowers, Science Policy Analyst at the National Science Foundation
  • Bill Foster, Physicist and Congressman, IL
  • Michal Freedhoff, Minority Director of Oversight & Investigations, U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
  • Abby Goldman PhD'18, IDA Science Technology Policy
  • Dan Gordon, Research Scientist at the New York State Department of Health
  • Chelsea Gregg PhD'16 Medtronic, Principal Research and Development Engineer, former AIMBE FDA Scholar
  • Don Hartill, Mayor of Lansing, NY and Emeritus Professor of Physics at Cornell
  • Rush Holt, CEO of AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science)
  • Kristen Hook PhD'16, AAAS  Legislative Science & Technology Policy Fellow sponsored by the American Statistical Association
  • Terrance Horner, Senior Science Analyst at U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Stephen Johnson, Vice President Emeritus, Federal and Community Relations, Cornell University
  • Adna Karabegovic, Project Coordinator, Research Tools And Economics Team, World Resources Institute
  • Judy Keen, Oncology Medical Training Leader, AstraZeneca; Director of Scientific Affairs, American Society for Radiation Oncology
  • Charles Kruzansky, Assistant Vice President, Office of State Government Relations, Cornell University
  • Charlotte Levy PhD'19 DOE AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, former Vice-President of ASAP
  • Joseph Long, National Science Policy Network Sci-Pol Scholars in Residence internship program
  • Anne Maglia, Associate Vice Chancellor-Research Compliance, UMass Lowell, former Science Advisor, NSF
  • Joel Malina, Vice President University Relations at Cornell University
  • Rachel Malloy, Director, Bureau of Sexual Health and Epidemiology, AIDS Institute, New York State Dept. of Health (NYSDOH)
  • Sarah Mandell, Director of Public Policy & Strategic Partnerships, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE)
  • Dianne L. Miller, Senior Director, Federal Government Relations at Cornell University
  • Fanuel Muindi, Assistant Director of Graduate Studies at Harvard University and Co-Founder of STEM Advocacy
  • Marika Nell PhD'20 California Council on Science & Technology (CCST) Policy Fellow
  • Zoe Nelson, Associate Director, Office of State Government Relations, Cornell University
  • Julie (Hammons) Nevins PhD'15 Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion
  • Jimmy O'Dea, Union of Concerned Scientists, former AAAS Congressional Science Policy Fellow
  • Abraham Parker, Staff Scientist at Environmental Management Support, Inc.
  • Helen Petach, Senior MCH Science Advisor, USAID
  • Kris Poduska, Director, Science Policy with the Canadian Association of Physicists, Professor of Physics and Physical Oceanography
  • Joe Regenstein, Professor of Food Science and Director of Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative
  • Cynthia Robinson, President, Robertson Fdn. for Government, formerly at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • Andrew Ruttinger PhD'21 Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Canada
  • Andy Sanchez, Journal of Science Policy and Governance (JSPG) Assistant Editor-in-Chief, President ASAP
  • Chris Schaffer, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University
  • Jeff Sharp, Media Strategist and Entrepreneur at Manitou Media
  • Catherine Spirito, PhD'17 Asst. Clinical Professor, Univ. MD
  • Scott Steele, FDA Office of Medical Policy Initiatives
  • Gary Stewart, Associate Vice President for Community Relations at Cornell 
  • Julie Suarez, Associate Dean of Governmental and Community Relations in CALS at Cornell
  • James Tierney, Assistant Commissioner of Water Resources at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
  • Sri Vedachalam, Water Policy Specialist
  • Liz Wayne PhD'15 shares how to get involved in policy work in her When Science Speaks video
  • Marissa Weiss, Program Coordinator for the Harvard Forest Science Policy Exchange, AAAS Mass Media Fellow, Mirzayan Fellow
  • Carrie Wolinetz, Associate Director for Science Policy, Director of the Office of Science Policy (OSP) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Jodi Yellin, Science Policy at AAMC (Assoc. of American Medical Colleges)
  • Catharine (Clark) Young, Co-Founder Blueprint International, TED Fellow & Senior Science and Innovation Policy Advisor, Head of DC Team at British Embassy

We are happy to help you identify additional mentors in your field. Make an appointment today!