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Workshops Will Build Bridges Between STEM and Public Policy Grad Students

Zana Cranmer

Zana Cranmer

Industrial Engineering doctoral student Zana Cranmer, an Offshore Wind Energy IGERT Fellow at UMass Amherst, has received a National Science Foundation Supplement grant of $34,946 from the NSF Directorate for Education and Human Resources to run a series of workshops at UMass related to science and technology policy. The grant will support a series of workshops, co-organized by Cranmer, to teach science and engineering doctoral students what they need to know about policy making and help them across all fields to collaborate with one another on policy related to science and technology. 

The proposal was written by Cranmer in collaboration with Professors Erin Baker of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and Charlie Schweik, the interim director of the new School of Public Policy (SPP).

The workshops will help develop connections between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields and the SPP. Students will work in interdisciplinary teams to explore how policy relates to science and vice versa, and they will gain experience participating in different parts of the science policy-making process. The workshops will also lay the foundation for future curriculum development to support students in cross-disciplinary learning and research.

Cranmer has an interest in this topic since one of her career aspirations is to build bridges between STEM and policy disciplines, and her workshops will address this gap. According to Cranmer, science and engineering graduate students often lack knowledge of the policy process, even though their work impacts, and is impacted by, policy. Research priorities and funding are often determined as part of the policy process.

Cranmer is currently in the planning mode with Schweik and Jane Fountain from SPP to put together a series of workshops aimed at graduate students who want to learn more about, and possibly participate in, science policy.

“The first workshop will be a discussion about the role of scientists in policy,” explains Cranmer. “Following that, we plan to have a couple of workshops to give students some background on the roles of the different branches of government and how policy is made. Then next semester we will hold a series of workshops to walk interdisciplinary teams of students through the process of participating in policy.” 

As Cranmer adds that “The students will figure out who the key players are in a particular scientific topic and develop something like a policy memo or public comments on a law or whatever form of participation is appropriate for their topic of interest.”

The workshops will recruit graduate students from both STEM and SPP programs. Immediate workshop objectives include understanding the basics of policy and regulation.

All students will:

  1. identify policy makers in a science topic area relevant to their research and the rules under which the identified policy makers operate;
  2. identify opportunities to participate in the science policy-making process;
  3. analyze the relationship between a scientific topic area and public policy;
  4. communicate critical technical information in a way that is accurate and pertinent to the relevant policy makers;
  5. and go beyond simply communicating technical and disciplinary knowledge to engaging, disagreeing, and collaborating with nontechnical audiences.

The workshops, however, will have a longer-term objective of informing strategies for designing and delivering future science policy graduate curricula. Specifically, part of each workshop will be devoted to team-based student proposals on topics that include the format of future curriculum delivery (i.e. workshops, credit courses, etc) and specific lesson plans. (October 2016)