In this month’s Postcard, Terra White, PhD in Neurobiology & Behavior, wrote about her organization at University of California, Irvine., and the public forum they hosted last January, which 100 people attended.
Tell us about yourself. I am the current Vice President of the Science Policy Group (SPG) at University of California, Irvine (UCI). Our mission is to educate and engage UCI students in science policy and science advocacy.
Why did you decide to engage? SPG at UCI has a longstanding goal to heighten awareness of the role of science in public policy. We are always looking for ways to promote science policy and we seek opportunities for our community to personally meet and engage with practitioners in the field of science policy.
What did you do? We organized a public forum at UCI called “Letting Evidence Lead the Way” that included panel sessions and networking. The panels consisted of both researchers and policymakers discussing the following topics: evidence-based policy making, renewable energy and climate change, biomedical and public health policy, and STEM education and public engagement.
How did you do it? The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a call for proposals for science advocacy activities that promote public awareness of the role of science in society, which our mentors told us about. After securing funding both from this fund and a couple of on-campus partners, we reached out to members of our networks to build panels for selected topics. We are grateful for all of our panelists who graciously volunteered their time.
What happened? For each of the four panels, an SPG member made introductory remarks that were followed by opening statements and discussion by panelists. An open Q&A session followed the moderated panel discussion to promote dialogue between the audience and panelists. We provided food and drink and networking space in addition to scheduled panel sessions. Guests included academic researchers from STEM and social science fields, candidates for US Congress, and local leaders such as the director of a STEM education nonprofit organization and a city Parks and Recreation Commissioner.
What did you get out of this experience? We were excited to bring together academic researchers at UCI with community leaders currently holding public office or running for office in Orange County. Local leaders gained a sense of where foundational research originates, while academics conveyed their science directly to current and future policymakers. We believe this reciprocal communication is crucial for advancing evidence-based public policy, and we hope to further promote science policy in future events.