Fellows Program

Science is essential to solve problems facing Ohio today. Emerging challenges, such as record flooding in farmlands, youth e-cigarette usage, the opioid crisis, and education reform, should be informed by those with state-of-the-art training in relevant scientific disciplines.

A Science Technology and Policy Fellowship Program in Ohio places fellows with doctorate degrees in advisory positions to work directly with policymakers to analyze, communicate, and define scientific expertise related to a specific policy need. Fellowships’ success at the Federal level has encouraged similar programs to other states, including Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia. Fellow backgrounds include engineering, life sciences, public health, environmental sciences.

Key Points:
•Fellows provide accurate and nonpartisan assistance on science and technology issues, including technical background research
•Fellowship experiences promotes lifelong policy engagement among early career scientists
•Program strengthens ties between government, academia, and industry

Click here to download our one-pager on the program.

Why a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship in Ohio?

Science and Technology Policy Fellowships (STPFs) are a powerful mechanism to inject technical expertise, provided by PhD-level scientists and engineers, into federal- and state-level policymaking. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) pioneered national efforts by establishing the first STPF. In the last four decades, the AAAS STPF has placed over three thousand scientists, engineers, and specialists in federal agencies and legislative offices. The program bridges the gap between the scientific enterprise and the federal government, helping fellows develop policy skills not commonly taught in scientific and engineering PhD programs and connecting decision- makers with impartial expertise and analyses.

The first state-level STPF was launched in 2010 by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), using the AAAS STPF as a model. The CCST Fellowship began by placing ten PhD scientists and engineers for one year in California state legislative offices. Over half of CCST alumni continue working in the California state government, so the state retains these experts as an additional benefit extending beyond the fellowship tenure.

Ohio State Government 

The Ohio General Assembly is a bicameral and biennium full-time legislature. General Assembly sessions begin the first Monday of odd-numbered years. The General Assembly consists of a 33-member Senate and 99-member House of Representatives. The Legislative Service Commission provides research and analysis to legislators. The Ohio executive branch is composed of twenty-six departments of government, such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Health Cabinet, underneath the governor. Since Ohio is a full-time legislature, the governor and other executive positions are elected for a four-year term, and the governor then appoints directors of departments in the executive branch. 

Science and Technology Policy in Ohio 

The Ohio General Assembly has no specialized science and technology committees. Science and technology topics are scattered across committees, particularly in Agriculture and Rural Development, Health, and Energy and Natural Resources Committees (Ohio Legislature House Standing Committees, n.d.). Though legislators have staff who prepare information for these committees, there is a clear need for scientific expertise in the legislative process. A focus on technology policy through the legislative process, or through the Legislative Service Commission, could help Ohio achieve these goals. While Ohio has no established science and technology bodies, the government is dedicated to addressing Ohio’s needs using science and technology, housing scientific expertise in established state agencies such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Opioid Abuse, Prevention, and Treatment Technology Initiative in the Development Services Agency

A Path to a Fellowship

As the Ohio executive branch has no offices directly relevant to science and technology, initial efforts in establishing a fellowship would be better focused on the legislative branch, expanding to possible executive placements once a fellowship has been run effectively for a few years. The full-time status of the Ohio General Assembly allows for year-long fellowship opportunities, similar to CCST and AAAS fellowships. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission currently houses the Legislative Fellows Program (LFP), though this program focuses on recent graduates from undergraduate programs with experience in public policy wishing to learn more about the state government and careers in public policy (OLSC, n.d.(b)). In the past ten years, less than 1% of Legislative Fellows had a science background, none with advanced scientific degrees. The current LFP assigns fellows to several Legislators as their aides for research and constituent work.

The OSPC seeks to establish a Science Policy and Technology Fellowship to assist with evidence-based policy decisions in the State of Ohio. This position is based upon a model developed by Missouri Science & Technology Policy Fellows (MOST) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Every year, policymakers in Ohio make critical decisions on many complex and dynamic issues facing our state, such as record flooding in farmlands, youth e-cigarette usage, the opioid crisis, and education reform. To help address this, the Ohio Science & Technology Policy Fellows (STPF) program will annually recruit and train a cohort of Ph.D. scientists and engineers to spend one year working in Columbus, directly serving decision-makers within the Ohio General Assembly. During their year of public service, these scientifically-trained minds will get first-hand experience about the process of policymaking in the state of Ohio. The Ohio STPF Fellows will work alongside decision-makers to evaluate complex scientific issues and interpret data while tackling full-time staffers’ responsibilities. These talented individuals will gain experience and training in public policy and leadership. Simultaneously, decision-makers will be given access to a scientifically trained staff who can inform policy discussions with scientific perspectives and expertise.

Adapted from Diasio MA, et al. 2020. The Journal of Science Policy and Governance