By Adriana Bankston and Cindy Achat-Mendes
For 10-years, the Journal of Science Policy and Governance (JSPG) has served as a non-profit organization and international, open-access, peer-reviewed publication dedicated to empowering students and early career researchers to contribute to science, technology, and innovation policy debates. JSPG publishes research-based op-eds, technology assessments, policy memos, and analyses, white papers, book reviews, workshop proceedings, and other research articles. JSPG staff take part in significant outreach and engagement initiatives in order to increase the impact and visibility of published work, and encourage readership and contributions to science policy. In this manner, JSPG seeks to elevate the visibility and enhance the skills of early career scholars in science policy and governance.
Training undergraduate students to debate societal issues
In fall 2020, JSPG publications were an integral part of the Interdisciplinary Applications of Biology (BIOL 4700) course at Georgia Gwinnett College, taught by Dr. Achat-Mendes, Associate Professor of Biology. This is a biology capstone problem-solving course with the goal of analyzing real world issues from a scientific, political, economic and social perspective, as well as effectively and clearly communicating scientific information in written and oral form. ”Cultivating the policymaker within,” and training undergraduate students to become well-spoken citizens on a variety of societal issues fall under course objectives.
Graphic by Dr. Achat-Mendes on “Cultivating the Policymaker Within” in a biology majors senior course at Georgia Gwinnett College
Publications as a resource for science policy writing and research
As high quality articles in science policy, JSPG publications were utilized in the journal club section of the course in two ways:
JSPG publications presented and discussed in the course focused on consumer knowledge of genetically engineered organisms; animal experimentation; use of genetic data in medicine; regulation of new and existing PFAS by EPA; the harm education and reduction for opioid users (HERO) initiative; US robotics and artificial intelligence policy; renewable energy in the US and its incentivization; charging of electric vehicles; and meeting STEM workforce demands by diversifying STEM.
The journal club using JSPG publications provided a wide scope and depths of discussion for the course, and constituted useful teaching tools in educating students about different types of policy writing. The utility of JSPG publications for the course was further exemplified by presentations given to the students by Adriana Bankston, JSPG’s Chief Outreach Officer, discussing principles of policy writing, as well as elements of a policy analysis (Scientific Integrity in Federal Policymaking Under Past and Present Administrations) and a policy memo (Meeting STEM workforce demands by diversifying STEM) using example publications in JSPG. Recordings of Dr. Bankston’s presentations on policy analysis and policy memo writing and analysis can be found on JSPG’s YouTube channel.
Knowing that these publications were written by young scientists resonated with the students in the class. In this manner, JSPG was a useful resource in teaching students how to become more comfortable with policy research and writing. Through JSPG publications, students also became more knowledgeable about local policy issues. For example, reading the policy memo Lowering Preventable Maternal Deaths in Rural Georgia was particularly helpful for students to learn about issues going on in their own backyard, as written about from local students, thereby increasing the relevance of these publications for their community.
Career advancement in science policy
Students reflected on the utility of the course for their own professional development, in teaching them to evaluate real-world issues in a broader context, and raising awareness of how science is viewed in society. The course also helped them realize their own voice in the policymaking process, gave them tools to advocate for issues of interest, and helped hone their skills in policy research and writing through course assignments and JSPG publications as a resource.
To learn more about the Journal of Science Policy & Governance (JSPG), visit sciencepolicyjournal.org. Follow @SciPolJournal on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with our latest issues and initiatives. If you are interested in conducting a JSPG journal club at your institution, or having JSPG staff speak to your students, please contact email@example.com.
Note: Inspired by the numerous resources provided by AAAS, the call to action on “Cultivating the Policymaker Within” was used as the focal point of the course.
About the authors:
Dr. Adriana Bankston is JSPG’s Chief Outreach Officer. Adriana promotes JSPG as a publication outlet and professional development opportunity for early career researchers in science policy. She organizes outreach events, and seeks out opportunities to highlight the organization, authors, and published work. Learn more, get in touch, and connect with Adriana here.
Dr. Cindy Achat-Mendes is an Associate Professor of Biology in the School of Science and Technology at Georgia Gwinnett College. Through evidence-based teaching and mentoring, her work is focused on providing inclusive STEM education for all students, regardless of their academic background. She mentors undergraduate students in neuroscience research and has helped to implement a campus-wide initiative that enhances student success through peer learning. Contact her to collaborate on STEM education initiatives: firstname.lastname@example.org.