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NCSL Grants Will Help States Launch Nonpartisan Science Policy Fellowships

The initiative enhances lawmakers’ access to science and technology research.

By Center for Results-Driven Governing Staff  |  May 1, 2024

State legislators routinely face science and technology challenges as they develop legislation on important and complex issues. Problem is, scientific research isn’t always easy to access or apply to policy decisions.

“Legislators are drowning in data points,” Missouri Rep. Louis Riggs told NCSL’s first science policy fellowship advisory group meeting. From broadband access to online education, science and data can help lawmakers understand what works, he says.

To fill this gap, Missouri and other states are developing nonpartisan science policy fellowship programs to provide policymakers with enhanced access to researchers and their networks. NCSL aims to support such efforts through the NCSL Science Policy Fellowship Planning Grant Initiative.

“Fellowships like this are where we need to be going.”

—Missouri Rep. Louis Riggs

The NCSL Center for Results-Driven Governing convened a bipartisan advisory group including legislators, legislative staff and science policy fellowship leaders, to advise on the planning grant initiative.

“Good policy should be fact-driven,” Riggs says. “Fellowships like this are where we need to be going.” The nonpartisan, nonprofit MOST Policy Initiative offers both legislative and executive branch fellowships in scientific and technological policy areas. Fellows spend up to two years working for the organization, responding to legislator requests for science and technology policy research and analysis.

Advisory group member and New Jersey Sen. Andrew Zwicker says fellows in Rutgers University’s Eagleton Science and Politics Fellowship Program work alongside staff in legislative and executive branch offices, bringing valuable science and research skills to all policy issues, not just the scientific ones.

“I don’t like to pigeonhole fellows only in science and tech work,” he says. “As scientists, they take a hard problem and break it down into small parts—and this is a helpful foundation for any policy proposal.”

Zwicker, a physicist, championed the Garden State’s program, where the Legislature provides a dedicated line item in the annual state budget.

The Grant Initiative

With the support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Center for Results-Driven Governing is offering up to ten grants in two rounds of funding. Grants awarded in 2023 support state efforts to plan for the creation of a state science policy fellowship program like those in Missouri, New Jersey and other states.

The second round of funding opens in May 2024. In the fall, as many as five recipients will be awarded grants of up to $100,000 each to explore the planning, development or implementation of a full-time, doctoral- or terminal-degree-level science policy fellowship program that could serve the state legislature.

For more information, see this NCSL state science policy fellowship webpage and this planning grant resource containing registration details, application materials and FAQs.

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