Bridging the Gap: UMass Amherst Forms Collaborations to Build New Chapter

Getting started in science policy during a pandemic requires planning and collaboration. Cierra Abellera from the Science Policy & Advocacy Initiative at the University of Massachusetts Amherst shares her insights on forming a science policy group and establishing collaborations.

A cartoon of lab equipment (a flask and a mortar and pestle), surrounded by the following text: UMass Science Policy and Advocacy. Confronting real-world issues at the intersection of science, policy, and society. Reach out here: UMassSciPol@Gmail.Com.

Who Are We?

At the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst), the UMass Amherst Science Policy Initiative began in 2020 virtually after attending the 2020 AAAS conference and learning about NSPN directly from student chapter leaders.

At UMass Amherst, our goal is to create a collaborative and creative environment for early-career scientists to develop the skills needed to communicate academic research to policymakers, practitioners, and communities on a local, national, and international scale. At the intersection of advocacy and outreach, our work takes an interdisciplinary approach to bridge the gap between science and policy. By advancing inclusive science communication and competencies around policy development and strategy, we provide a platform for the next generation of scientists to develop research and expertise with meaningful, real-world impact.

Current Projects and Recent Successes

Within the past year, we collaborated with another graduate student-led organization called TRISCI. We collaborated on several events ranging from panel discussions about writing for the public audience to holding a three-part workshop series with Deborah Stine of the Science and Technology Policy Academy to develop policy writing skills among a group of 20 graduate students across the university. After this workshop, our chapter submitted a policy memo to the 2021 JSPG-NSPN Policy Memo Competition which for all participating graduate students was a first-time experience.

Currently, we are collaborating with TRISCI to hold a Science Communication Competition. This event is meant to be a space for students to showcase their work related to policy writing and/or writing to the general public. This is also an opportunity for students to network with students, organizations, and other professionals to further develop their science communication skills and connect with others interested in engaging with audiences outside of academia.

COVID-19 Setbacks

Ideally, we would have hoped to have on-campus events and gatherings to recruit more chapters and NSPN members, but due to the pandemic our efforts have largely remained online. In the upcoming year, we hope to build our presence on campus and continue working on skill development, networking, and collaboration with like-minded organizations in our area.

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To learn more about the UMass Amherst Science Policy & Advocacy Initiative, follow them on Twitter: @UMassSciPol.

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