Professional Development Fund Supports Training and Skill Development During COVID-19

NSPN's Professional Development Fund (PDF) provides financial support for activities that enhance members' professional network and develop their skills in science policy, advocacy, diplomacy, leadership, and communication. Although the fund has commonly been used for conference travel, in the time of COVID-19, the fund has expanded to support other resources that can be used from home.

"The purpose of the PDF is to support members by providing funding that will help them overcome any financial barriers or deal with any unforeseen costs that come up," said Robert Stanley, Grants & Finance Committee Chair. "We are looking to find creative ways that people can utilize the fund in the time of COVID-19, whether that be starting a website, procuring online tools or courses, or even purchasing books." NSPN members in the Early Career category can receive up to $500 to fund these purchases.

Here we highlight three recent recipients of the Professional Development Fund and learn how the funding enhanced their professional development in science policy and communication.

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Sarah Benish, a member of Graduate Science Policy at the University of Maryland, used her funding to attend the Annual Conference of the Air and Waste Management Association. "I am grateful to have been provided the opportunity to attend the conference, which was held virtually this year due to COVID-19 restrictions," said Benish. "As an air quality scientist, I wanted to become more educated about the intricacies of air pollution and greenhouse gas policy at the local, state, national, and international levels. Thanks to NSPN, attending the virtual conference has allowed me to better understand the environmental regulations that directly impact my research."

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Shannon Walsh, previously the Co-President of Catalysts for Science Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, took a different approach, using her funding to attend a workshop series called How To Be Antiracist. "As someone who is pursuing a career in health law and justice, I feel it is imperative that I seek out this type of rigorous content which explicitly arms participants with the tools to dismantle systemic racism," said Walsh. "Discriminatory policies, practices, and attitudes play a huge role in perpetuating the health disparities I aim to combat throughout my career, and this workshop will be an impactful launchpad as I begin my first year of law school." Walsh is currently a law student at Loyola University Chicago.

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Besides attending conferences and workshops, the Professional Development Fund can also be used to purchase supplies. Chelsie Boodoo, President of MSU SciComm at Michigan State University, used her funding to purchase software. "With the NSPN funding I was able to improve my graphic design skills by making things for The Sci-Files," said Boodoo. "The software that I was able to purchase is also being used by MSU SciComm so that we can create science policy comics to make science more accessible."

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To learn more about NSPN's Professional Development Fund, visit our website. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are reviewed once per month. Approved activities include, but are not limited to, the conferences, reading materials, and other training opportunities in NSPN's science policy and communication Resource Guide.

If you have questions about the Professional Development Fund, talk with the Director of Finance, Michaela Rikard, during her office hours ("Money Talks"), which are held every Thursday at 4 PM Eastern Time. Further meeting details can be found on our website.

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