Beginning in 2020, graduate students from the University of Maryland became interested in starting a science policy fellowship program in the state. In 2019, the MSTEHP fellowship idea was started by Graduate Science Policy (GSP) at UMD executive board members at the University of Maryland—Sarah Benish, Aditi Dubey, Liz Friedman, and Rachel Lamb.
Graduate Science Policy at UMD is a recognized student chapter of the National Science Policy Network. We received support from the Union of Concerned Scientists to start initial discussions of what a state fellowship might look like in Maryland. We currently rely on support from an intern and several graduate student volunteers. We are in the process of forming an advisory council that would help guide the formation and structure of the MSTEHP fellowship.
The advisory council will include professionals, scientists, and researchers across the state with a strong background in civic engagement. We are excited to work with key stakeholders to identify the best model for evidence-based decision making in Maryland. We regularly communicate with other states that have developed fellowship programs. We encourage anyone interested in participating in these discussions to contact us.
What will MSTEHP Fellows do?
MSTEHP fellows would undertake activities that are typical of any staffer in a public policy office. At the direction of the legislators and/or executive branch policymakers for whom they are working, the MSTEHP fellows would contribute their scientific, technical, and health expertise and analytical skills to a policymaker’s existing team.
Fellow’s activities might include reviewing existing research, collecting and analyzing data, organizing roundtables with stakeholders, preparing for hearings, developing presentations, videos, social media and other communications, interacting with constituents and special interest groups, and writing policy memos and talking points.
How will the MSTEHP Fellowship Program work?
The goal is to have 2-4 fellows in the legislative and/or executive branch. One option would be for fellows to begin in the summer and serve for a year. Anyone with an advanced terminal level degree in science, including social sciences, engineering, or health from an accredited U.S. university may apply to the program. The MSTEHP Fellowship Program would be housed by a host institution, which would manage and administer the program.
Candidates can apply for a fellowship in a program area where scientific and technical expertise is often needed: health, energy, environment, information technology, transportation, infrastructure, and other disciplines as determined by host offices. After vetting and prioritizing top candidates by the MSTEHP Fellowship Program and advisory council, similar to other state and AAAS fellowship programs, each office in the legislative and/or executive branch would have the opportunity to interview and rank candidates.
The candidates would then do the same and rank the offices. The fellow program would next match candidates to appropriate offices. Fellows will receive a full-time stipend that includes health benefits.
Once selected, each fellow would participate in an orientation program to enhance their understanding of public policy and the working of state legislative and executive branches, as well as professional development opportunities. Program staff would check in on fellows and mentors regularly to ensure the program is running smoothly.
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“State governments grapple with increasingly complex scientific issues, from water standards in Tennessee and the opioid epidemic in Ohio, to flood management in Texas and coal ash in North Carolina (Reese 2018). Importantly, more states are recognizing the value of PhD-level fellows in developing unique policy solutions based on sound science.”