The Science and Democracy Fellowship

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Are you passionate about defending science against the seeming onslaught of attacks? Do you want to ensure that scientific voices are heard in federal decisionmaking? Many scientists and experts know it’s more important now than ever to speak up. But you may struggle to find the time, resources, or knowledge you need to make your engagement as impactful as possible and build your influence as a constituent.

That’s why the Union of Concerned Scientists has launched the Science and Democracy Fellowship to support scientists and technical experts in becoming local advocacy leaders. Five fellows have been selected for the inaugural six-month program to mobilize their local communities, in partnership with UCS, in confronting federal attacks on science. Fellows will be given financial resources, leadership development opportunities, and advocacy tools to make sure federal policies—and policymakers—are using the best science.

By designing and leading actions in their community, fellows will build support within their state to strengthen the role of science in federal policymaking, for the benefit of all.

Meet the 2018 fellows

Shri A. Verrill | Surry, ME

Shri grew up in the Western foothills of Maine and holds a M.S. in Biology from the University of Southern Maine where she gained expertise in wetland science focusing on coastal salt marsh, estuarine ecology. Shri is currently a Habitat Restoration Project Manager with the Downeast Salmon Federation (DSF) where she is able to utilize her background in biological assessments, fish passage, salt marsh, estuarine and riparian zone restoration, community outreach and science-based policy. Before working at DSF she was the Principal Ecologist at SV Ecology, worked with the Maine Natural Areas Program and Casco Bay Estuary Partnership. She serves on the legislative committee for the Maine Association of Wetland Scientists and is the former Maine State Director and Communications Director for the New England Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. She has lobbied both at the State and Federal level with the Maine Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Council of Maine and with the Downeast Science Watchdogs. She deeply values Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and is a strong advocate for the fishing and hunting subsistence and sustenance rights of Indigenous Peoples. She works to inspire ecological consciousness in her community to shift the mindset away from colonial settler capitalism toward a neohumanistic economic democracy.

Lindsay Wancour | Missoula, MT

Lindsay works with Swan Valley Connections, a collaborative conservation and experiential learning non-profit,  as their Conservation and Education Assistant. Originally from Michigan, Lindsay moved to Montana after graduating from Michigan State University and served in Americorps’ Montana Conservation Corps. She was fortunate to spend two years with MCC working and living in the backcountry, developing a fondness for the peace of mind nature brings to her life. After the conclusion of her service, she was accepted to the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies M.S. program and completed a certificate program in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution. When not in class, Lindsay worked with the Student Conservation Association, leading crews of high school students in conservation projects. The communities that were created between peers and students while working in the wilderness was unparalleled to anything Lindsay had previously experienced. While at UM, Lindsay studied watershed restoration and ways to develop communities around watershed health. As part of her graduate work, she worked on restoring California Creek with the Big Hole Watershed Committee, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality on their stream reference project, and with the Montana Watershed Coordination Council on a survey to better understand the needs of watershed groups around Montana. Since graduating, Lindsay has joined the Missoula Water Quality Advisory Council. She is passionate about finding ways for individuals to build meaningful connections to the water while simultaneously strengthening their sense of community.

Adrienne Keller | Bloomington, IN

Adrienne Keller is a PhD student in the Evolution, Ecology and Behavior program in the Department of Biology at Indiana University, where she studies forest carbon and nutrient cycling. Adrienne holds an M.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana and a B.A. in Biology and Geography from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN). In addition to her research in ecosystem ecology, Adrienne is an active member of the newly formed, grassroots organization Concerned Scientists @ IU. Prior to graduate school, Adrienne was involved in science policy work as a Program Assistant with the National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington, D.C. Adrienne has also enjoyed working with K-12 students in a variety of settings, including leading cross-cultural immersion programs for high school students to Africa and Latin American with the Student Diplomacy Corps and teaching field ecology courses in the Galapagos Islands with Ecology Project International.

Tim Rafalaski | Las Vegas , NV

Tim is a Ph.D. candidate in the Computer Science department at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He works under Dr. Andreas Stefik conducting empirical studies—designing, running, and implementing programming language experiments—to validate scientific computing design and organization. Outside of the lab, Tim is a math and science tutor for students that age from elementary through college, and he helps to organize and participates in community elevating educational events. Tim holds a bachelor’s in biology from St. Petersburg College, St. Petersburg Florida. While obtaining his degree he made the President’s List frequently and was a charter member the college's Tri Beta Biological Honor Society Chapter. Originally from New Jersey, Tim now resides in Nevada.

Emily Piontek | Columbia, MO

Emily Piontek is seeking her master’s degree in Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management at the University of Missouri - Columbia. She believes that climate solutions and common-pool-resource protections require a combination of political action and the fostering of place-based environmental values in our communities. In her classes and as a research assistant, she studies the relationship between human behavior and natural resources. She makes use of her social science background by exploring the broader context of social patterns and the relationship of government and politics to national and international phenomena. Scientifically, her interests are climate change and natural resource management. She is passionate about promoting climate-friendly lifestyles, adult-oriented science education in informal settings, and equity in political representation. In her free time, she can be found reading in a sunny spot, cooking for friends, or attempting to keep pace with her boisterous Jack Russell Terrier.

Goals of the fellowship program

  1. Advance evidence-based decisionmaking at the federal level through local action by collaboration between scientists and technical experts and UCS.
  2. Make advocacy and engagement possible for interested scientists and technical experts.
  3. Empower scientists to engage their community to support science-based federal policies. 

Benefits for fellows

UCS offers the education, tools, and support you need to design your own effective advocacy opportunities. Benefits include:

  • Training in communications, advocacy, scientist-community partnerships, and leadership development that will apply to other issues you work on in the future.
  • $4,500 honorarium.
  • $1,000 in grants for your community events and actions.
  • Connections to other fellows in the 2018 cohort for mutual support, including skill-sharing, connections, and problem solving.
  • Up to two hours a month of personalized coaching with UCS staff with expertise in campaigning, research policy, and communications.
  • Access to a local mentor, such as a former congressional fellow.
  • Opportunities to share about your experience with scientist advocates nationwide through avenues such as the UCS blog, the Science Network webinar series, or at scientific conferences.
  • Certificate of program completion.
  • Enhanced ability to design advocacy opportunities for scientists to have a real impact.
  • Opportunities to learn how scientists can be effective partners with local communities to ensure equitable health and safety protections.
  • A chance to distinguish yourself as a leader in the UCS Science Network and in your community.

What will the fellowship entail?

Fellows will receive a $4,500 honorarium and up to a total of $1,000 for community/advocacy events and actions (supplies, equipment, and travel). Fellows should plan to spend on average 8 hours a week on education and advocacy-related activities during the six-month program. Fellows are expected to attend a three-day leadership, civic engagement, and communications retreat May 29-June 1 in Seattle, WA led by COMPASS and UCS. Fellows must primarily reside in their state for the duration of the fellowship.

From May to November 2018, fellows will:

  • Draft an advocacy plan.
  • Attend a three-day leadership and civic engagement training May 29-June 1 in Seattle, WA. This retreat will provide foundational skills in science communication and policy, spark transformational change as effective leaders, improve knowledge and skills to engage with the public and policymakers, and build a community of mutual support and inspiration.
  • Organize two creative group actions (see below) and one educational event in their communities.
  • Coordinate local gatherings (or calls) with scientist-advocates to plan actions and share updates.
  • Participate in bimonthly fellow conference calls for peer learning and support.
  • Participate in periodic check-ins with UCS campaign staff for support.
  • Create final report backs and lessons learned for other scientist advocates to benefit from your experience.  

Reporting: Fellows will also be required to submit a) brief progress updates on advocacy plans for UCS and peer review, due every other month; b) a proposal for any use of UCS funds for advocacy events/actions; and c) a final report summarizing activities and lessons learned. The updates and final report will include summaries suitable for publication by UCS.

Relevant issues for actions and events

Relevant fellowship activities can relate to local concerns and interests but must have a connection to federal (administrative or congressional) attacks on science, scientific integrity, or science-based safeguards. At least one of the actions undertaken by the fellow should directly bolster or collaborate with efforts of local, impacted communities. As UCS is a 501(c) (3) organization, no election-related activities should be conducted as part of this fellowship.  Examples of relevant activities that fellows could pursue in collaboration with their colleagues/other local advocates:

  • Hosting a public forum with a decisionmaker on a topic such as legislation or recent attacks on science
  • A letter-writing, call-in, or teach-in campaign
  • Holding meetings with local community groups, especially with affected communities to build relationships
  • Scientific support for grassroots engagement (e.g. setting up a team to support a community group’s review and participation in public comment periods)
  • Holding a training for conducting meetings with legislators, or covering travel costs to a policymaker meeting
  • Training and logistical support for hosting or participating in a local public forum or town halls with policymakers

Who should apply

Application is open to Science Network-eligible experts living in Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, or North Dakota. We particularly encourage early-career scientists to apply. Applicants must be US residents and at least 18 years in age. Employees of UCS are not eligible to apply.

We are specifically looking for individuals who demonstrate a commitment to collaborative and creative approaches to advocacy, science serving the public interest, and helping to build a community of diverse scientist-advocates.

UCS strives to create a diverse network of advocates. We are actively seeking applicants from different ethnic, racial, and technical backgrounds, as well as those with the potential to advance early-career scientists as advocates. You can review the Science Network statement on diversity, equity, and inclusion here

How to apply

Eligible applications will include two parts: 

1. An application form submitted through the UCS online submission page, including:

  • Name and contact information
  • Academic credentials and affiliation
  • One-paragraph bio
  • References

2. Additional materials submitted via upload to Dropbox:

  • Written short answer section (six questions—250 words each, following template)
  • Resume—not to exceed two pages

All parts of the application are required and must be submitted by the announced deadline to be considered eligible.

Apply now to join the 2018 Science and Democracy Fellows!

Deadline: Applications must be submitted by Monday, March 12, 2018, midnight Eastern time.

Notification of Awards: Selected fellows will be notified by Monday, April 2, 2018. We expect to award five fellowships for 2018.

Questions about this application can be sent to: [email protected]. Questions will be answered and posted in a FAQ on this webpage.

Evaluation of applications

UCS staff will evaluate fellowship applications based on these criteria:

  1. Evidence of applicant's commitment to advocacy on behalf of science in the public interest and interest in enhancing their advocacy skills. Applicants do not need to be an expert on the issues UCS works on.
  2. Potential to foster an active local community for scientist-advocates, through creative approaches and strong communication skills.
  3. Potential for advocacy efforts to support and collaborate with affected communities.
  4. Potential to advance early career scientists in becoming advocacy leaders.
  5. Interest in and understanding of attacks on science coming from Congress and the Trump Administration.

Questions & answers

Q: “Is participating in all of the May training mandatory?”

A: We would require all fellows to stay for the entire retreat, which begins Tuesday afternoon, May 29, and will wrap-up by noon on Friday June 1.

Q: “Is the fellowship only open to climate scientists?”

A: No! This fellowship will not focus specifically on climate change. UCS has five program areas, and climate change is one of those. This fellowship is intended to encourage scientists from all backgrounds to get more involved in policy conversations across multiple issues, particularly in the face of attacks on science in DC. In fact, this fellowship is led by our Center for Science and Democracy, which focuses on the role of science in decision-making, broadly. Scientists in our network from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.