Science Policy Careers: The Difference Neuroscientists Can Make
What value do neuroscientists offer to the policy making process?
A scientific approach creates quality legislation by adding a critical filter to analyses and by contributing to a general regard that conclusions must be backed up independently.
A Senator in the state of California represents nearly one million constituents and votes on more than 5,000 bills every two-year cycle. In such a fast-paced environment, legislators rely on a system of information delivery that takes the form of timely, packaged ideas gleaned from news articles, the legislator’s own staff or personal network, advocacy groups, think tanks, and lobbyists.
Lobbying firms, considered the “Third House” of the legislative branch, hold particular power because they have the means to constantly present information to decision-makers and their staff at the right time, with clear context and vision, and with a sophisticated strategy for enacting legislation.
Government plays a role in creating the conditions necessary for scientific progress, primarily via public funding and patterns of regulation. However, scientific progress needs scientists at each step of the research pipeline, from extracting experimental data to fostering market and legal viability.
Applying my scientific training often takes the form of evaluating statements of variable credibility, Googling like an expert, and communicating recommendations. A rigorous process akin to bench research is not always possible, often for reasons such as urgent timing or a simple lack of data, but the more policy is based in fact, the stronger it will be.
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