Although scientists are at the forefront of human knowledge, the institutions where they work can often be not as progressive. In recent years, academia has been more attentive to the issues of inclusion, accessibility, and equality, but a lot of work still needs to be done. To this end, a lot of efforts are currently being done in science policy to solve existing issues and improve academia and other science-related fields. But what does this work really entail? What does a science policy professional do, and how do you become one?
On Thursday, Oct. 22, the fourth “Inspire” seminar took place virtually. This special event was organized through the collaboration of EnventureSA and WISDOM. The goal of the event was to learn about science policy from Dr. Arielle Baker, a program officer at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Dr. Baker graduated with a PhD in neuroscience from Dartmouth College, and later transitioned to a career in science policy through the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowship.
Dr. Baker have taken a particular interest in making science a more equitable and accessible environment. Throughout their career, they have been working on different projects including sexual harassment in academia, the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers, and the impact of COVID-19 on the careers of women in scientific fields.
During the event, Dr. Baker presented her journey from college to her current role. Although her graduate studies were a great experience, the need to improve certain aspects of academia inspired Dr. Baker to move to science policy.
As the seminar progressed, participants in the audience asked questions on how to transition in the field of science policy. Dr. Baker explained how there are several policy fellowships, both from the NIH and other sources, which graduate students can apply for to experience first-hand the work of a science policy professional. One of such fellowships, the Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellowship, was the one that opened the doors for Dr. Baker.
Subsequently, Dr. Baker went into more details on her current role, giving a comprehensive idea of what it means to work in science policy and what a typical day looks for her.
Additional questions were asked regarding some of the issues that Dr. Baker works on, namely how can academia become a more equitable and inclusive environment. Dr. Baker explained how it is not possible to find a quick and radical solution for these issues, but meaningful results are still being achieved through constant and gradual changes. To facilitate the introduction and implementation of these changes, Dr. Baker highlighted the importance of cooperation between different levels of leadership, and a certain level of personal responsibility and bravery both from the students and administration.
The event gave the audience a quick, but fascinating insight into the world of science policy and the work that is currently being done to ensure that everyone can feel welcomed and succeed in academia and other science-related fields.
About The Author
Carlo Vanz is an international student from Italy and a first year Ph.D. student in the Molecular Immunology and Microbiology discipline of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program. He works in the lab of Dr. Elizabeth Leadbetter where he studies the role of iNKT cells and B cells in inflammation related to obesity. He is also a member of EnventureSA where he helps organize events to expose graduate students with professionals from the biomedical industry.