Programs share many similarities and vary in key aspects, such as fellowship duration or funding mechanisms. In Missouri, fellows may spend up to two years working for the MOST Policy Initiative, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization where they respond to legislator requests for science and technology policy research and analysis. Fellows in Idaho commit to a one-year term in the legislative or executive branch, with an option to extend executive branch fellowships for an additional year.
In some states, fellowship programs operate out of established organizations, such as nonprofits or academies of science. In 2019, the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering placed their inaugural science and technology fellow with an executive agency for a two-year term. North Carolina Sea Grant operates a variety of fellowships, including the NC STEM Policy Post-Graduate Fellowship to develop science policy leaders in the state. Through the fellowship program, recently graduated students are offered opportunities to serve one-year, full-time terms in state agencies and partnering organizations.
Like many other states, Idaho, Missouri, and Connecticut launched their fellowships by raising seed funds from multiple sources, including foundations, universities, private donors, and state funding which continue to pay for operations. In contrast, funding for New Jersey’s Science and Politics Fellowship comes from a dedicated line item in the annual state budget and is administered by the Eagleton Institute of Politics, a nonpartisan research institution at Rutgers University.
While many programs place fellows in government offices, the Commonwealth of Virginia Engineering and Science (COVES) program includes Virginia companies and nonprofits as potential hosts for fellows. In the 12-week program, COVES fellows are paired with a Virginia Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (VASEM) mentor and participate in VASEM’s meetings and annual summit. West Virginia’s Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellows program assigns mentors with policy-related expertise to support fellows as they work on science and technology related assignments at West Virginia University, state agencies, national labs or the legislature. Fellows work 8-10 hours per week for up to 100 hours during their semester-long placements.
The nation’s longest-running state science policy fellowship program, launched in 2009, is managed by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in 1988 at the request of the Legislature (ACR 162). CCST applicants come from across the country to serve one-year staff assignments with the California Legislature, executive branch agencies, or offices of the governor.
Regardless of the nuances of their fellowship models, the states’ goals are similar: to strengthen the relationship between state government and the scientific community and to integrate objective and reliable data and evidence into the decision-making process.