Using science policy to address diversity, equity and inclusion

Martina G. Efeyini |

Many of the scientists I found who work for scientific societies have Ph.D.s, especially those who work in science policy. So I talked to two scientists with master’s degrees who made strategic moves to break into science policy. Their skillsets, scientific training and education were assets that helped them understand science policy issues. They both said it was challenging but doable.

André Porter is the policy director for the AAAS program Science is US. He has a B.S. in biology and M.S. in behavioral genetics from Howard University. He credits his experience at Howard and the work he did for different scientific organizations with helping him to understand the challenges scientists of color face and the importance of science policy. (Read his 2017 ASBMB Today essay on working while in school.)

Chasing grants didn’t interest me. I got into science policy because I wanted to affect science. I got into science in general because I wanted to affect science. I wanted to discover something new, drive science forward and have a significant impact on science,” he said.

While working on his bachelor’s degree, Porter became an intern at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. After earning his degree, the agency hired him as a physical science technician. While working on his master’s, he became a STEM contractor. Although policy was not in his job titles, in those positions, he did a lot of projects involving policy, such as developing solicitations, synthesizing documents, creating reports and researching policy issues.

After earning his M.S., he was hired as the science education analyst for the NSF, where he conducted analyses, wrote reports, provided scientific expertise and participated in outreach meetings.

A year and a half later, he was hired as the science policy analyst for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. His job was to monitor federal legislation, draft position statements on issues that affected ASBMB members and engage those members in advocacy campaigns. While there, he developed a grassroots advocacy network and went to the National Institutes of Health and NSF for meetings to discuss science policies. He also represented the ASBMB on the Coalition for National Science Funding and the STEM Education Coalition.

When I used to go to those meetings, one of the things that I used to push for is a lot of discussion about diversity and inclusion,” he said.

Today he’s policy director for Science is US,  a grant-funded program housed within the AAAS previously called the Campaign for Science. He does a lot of advocacy, works with local grassroots groups, attends governmental relations meetings, and participates in weekly policy alerts. Another part of his job is leading efforts to organize policy discussions. He manages consultants and staff members to drive these conversations about STEM education, diversity and inclusion, and research funding at the state and federal levels. Finally, he helps lawmakers understand the value of scientific evidence so they can develop legislation and policies that make sense.

“I’ve worked on a number of projects that have helped support Black and brown people getting into science and engineering, and I helped lead the ASBMB’s response to #MeTooSTEM and NSF policies affecting women in STEM,” Porter said. “I can look back and say, ‘Oh, I really had an impact thus far and got to the goal that I wanted to reach.’”

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from, “Doing policy work at scientific societies”, authored by Martina G. Efeyini. It was published in ASBMB Today on September 14, 2021 and a link to the complete article can be found here. Martina G. Efeyini is a toxicologist, science communicator and advocate for the next generation of scientists. She is also a contributor to ASBMB Today, an award-winning news magazine published by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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