Chris Unterberger Reflects on the 2021 National Science Policy Symposium

During the 2021 National Science Policy Symposium, NSPN organized a Bingo activity to engage participants on social media. Chris Unterberger, the first person to achieve a Bingo, shares his reflections on the event.

The National Science Policy Symposium serves me as a pep rally for science policy. As the weather gets colder, my determination tends to slow down as well. Luckily, for the past couple of chilly Novembers, I’ve been warmed and enlivened by NSPS. With an appropriate conservationist theme and a plethora of wonderful speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities, the 2021 edition of NSPN’s annual meeting proved to, once again, energize my science policy advocacy!

The NSPS Bingo competition introduced at the beginning of the conference reminded me of all the quality opportunities the meeting presents. At the Networking Happy Hour, I was able to meet members in hubs other than my own and people working in committees other than the Grants & Finance committee (all the while having a warming drink in the comfort of my home). It turns out that the Southern, Eastern, and Western Hubs are filled with great minds, too! (Though the Central Hub has yet to be beat, in my humble opinion.) I was inspired by hearing about all the great projects coming out of the many newly formed NSPN committees, and I got to meet a ton of amazing new people. I was able to reflect and recharge during the SciPol Pets break. My cat, Uno, kept me company purring in my lap. It gave me a chance to reflect on the keynote discussion while giving me energy to attend more virtual sessions. The discussions by ESAL (Engineers & Scientists Acting Locally) always sparks new ideas for how I can act locally. This year, I hope to use their teachings to advocate for green infrastructure in Madison, WI (including more bike lanes). My tweets throughout these events were hopefully appreciated by conference-goers and otherwise. Specifically, I hope that by repeating Dr. Lara Pierpoint’s quote “This is about massive economic and infrastructural shifts, and it's going to require literally everything you've got. So the more people who can work across that big picture, I think the better off we're going to be.” highlighted an important point for others attending NSPS.

My favorite event of the weekend, though, was the Bite-Sized SciPol Pitch session hosted by Megan Damico (in which I enthusiastically participated). With topics ranging from family support for grad students to ADA accessibility in labs to PFAS…there was no shortage of topics to discuss. The only downside of the event was TIME: nearly every speaker piqued my interest enough to demand more from them. If it weren’t for that dang timer that restricted us to 3 minutes! Nonetheless, I was particularly impressed by pitches from Leticia Lee (local SciPol advocacy), Jenny Bratburd (NASA’s Health and Air Quality Applied Sciences Team), and Henry Pitts (staying in touch with Native American roots in water protections). They were my votes for gold, silver, and bronze (in no particular order).

NSPS didn’t fail in giving me my annual dose of science policy overload. I look forward to seeing everyone at Symposia in the future (and hopefully in person)!

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