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Student Perspective: Science and Policy Trip

5/31/2019 12:00:00 AM

By Locky Catron

The spring semester of 2019 marked the first Science and Policy course through the Scowcroft Institute’s Pandemic Policy Program. Nine graduate students, including me, had the opportunity to participate in researching and writing a white paper that we presented in Washington, DC in May.  Our student team represented a unique batch of academic fields, included Biochemistry, International Affairs, Engineering, Animal Science, and Agricultural Economics. The challenge was to translate between science and policy languages, coalesce our varying perspectives, and communicate our message to leaders in the government and the field. It was indeed a challenging endeavor, but one that taught us more than we could have anticipated.

Our professor, Dr. Christine Crudo Blackburn, chose the topic Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), an area in which many of us had no experience. For those of us who had a steep learning curve on the science of AMR, our colleagues were indispensable assets. For those of us who were students of policy and economics, we contributed by framing the issues and analyzing the markets. Together, through discussion and debate, we developed and decided on seven recommendations, which concluded our white paper, Incentivizing Novel Approaches to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance.

At the end of the semester we were given the unique opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to immerse ourselves in pandemic and infectious disease policy. Our semester learnings and curiosities came to life in the Capitol City. On Day 1 we attended the 3rd Annual Pandemic Preparedness and Biosecurity Forum at the National Press Club. I was amazed to see the diversity of leaders and practitioners involved in finding policy and program solutions to our most pressing global threats.

On Days 2 and 3, we zig-zagged through the city to meet with legislators, committee staff, government agency leaders, and non-profit professionals involved in AMR issues. They were gracious in giving their time, providing feedback, and provoking new ideas. We all now have experience in suggesting policy to our representative and have a grasp on how to approach policy conversations and efforts with allies.

In a small way, we hope our class serves as an example of the power and necessity of interdisciplinary work. In a large way, it has left an impression on our perception of the policymaking process, as well as how to effectively collaborate on an issue much larger than any individual or academic field. The lessons and skills learned will be invaluable as we launch our careers in STEM and public service.