Careers in science policy can be found in a number of different organizations both within and surrounding the federal government. Examples of possible careers include: legislative analyst for a Congressional office or committee; policy analysts within the executive branch agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF); government relations and policy analyst positions for organizations such as scientific or medical societies, patient advocacy organizations, and pharmaceutical companies; and analyst positions in "think tanks." In addition, science policy happens in a lot of other places: universities, local governments, and global consortia. A position in science policy requires scientific knowledge, analytical ability, and exceptional communication skills.
Laura Koontz, Ph.D.
Director of Policy, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
“If you're interested in a career in science policy, be prepared to write, write, and then write some more! As a policy analyst, you may be called upon the read and summarize, analyze, and comment upon how specific legislation, federal and state regulations, and policy proposals may impact your organization or constituency. You may even be the person drafting those proposals and will need to clearly and effectively explain to others why they should support your policy. In any position, you'll likely work in close collaboration with other stakeholder groups.”
Pamela Bradley, Ph.D.
Personalized Medicine Staff, Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
"It’s tough to describe a typical “day in the life,” since life in the policy world is unpredictable and varied. Some days I spend all day glued to my desk, only writing and reading emails. Other days, I delve into primary scientific literature or write technical documents. Still other days, I am focused on our communication and outreach efforts to help educate industry about the current thinking of the Agency, which may involve informal meetings, oral presentations or developing written material. It helps to be flexible because my to-do list frequently gets shoved aside for a more pressing matter. People skills also come in handy since identifying appropriate policy solutions often requires working collaboratively to find consensus among stakeholders whose goals are divergent and often not well aligned. A warning to scientists: policy change often happens at the same glacial pace as research advances in a lab, so you will need patience, flexibility and the ability to compromise! I have found science policy to be a rewarding career path, with exciting opportunities to contribute to public health on a broader scale.”
We thank Laura Koontz and Pamela Bradley for their assistance in compiling the above information.