A resolution passed by the House on October 28 (H. Con. Res. 279) recognizes the 30th anniversary of the Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and pledges continued congressional support for the program. The American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the Optical Society of America are some of the scientific societies that participate in the AAAS program by annually sponsoring Fellows to work on Capitol Hill. Readers interested in applying to any of these Fellowship programs should refer to FYI #144. The application deadline for the AIP and APS Fellowships is January 15, 2004.
The resolution, which has now been referred to the Senate, finds that "Fellows bring to the Congress new insights and ideas, extensive knowledge, and perspectives from a variety of disciplines." During discussion of the resolution, several Members of Congress spoke in praise of the Fellowships. Selected portions of the discussion are provided below:
REP. VERNON EHLERS (R-MI): "This resolution...recognizes a truly valuable educational program that gives scientists a wonderful opportunity to step out of the lab and into the political process.... [T]hey get a behind-the-scenes look at how our laws are made, writing speeches, developing legislation, and serving as liaisons to committees on which a Member serves. At the same time Members of Congress and other policy makers gain a valuable new resource to help them better understand the scientific and technical issues underpinning complex policy debates.... After 30 years, this program is still going strong. Over 800 scientists have now served Republican, Democratic, and Independent Members of Congress and many are currently working for Congress and the administration. These individuals have contributed not only their scientific expertise, but also a fresh perspective to policy making."
REP. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON (D-TX): "The AAAS Congressional Science and Engineering Fellowship Program has provided congressional committees and Members' offices with scientific and technical expertise that has greatly benefitted governmental decision-making for three decades.... I know that many of my colleagues have repeatedly sought AAAS fellows for their personal offices because of the quality of the contributions they have made.... The presence of congressional fellows enhances the public policy formulation process. In addition, the program provides fellows with a window on the policy formulation process and the workings of Congress that they take back to their home institutions. It also provides a mechanism that many fellows have used to transition to careers in public service.... [T]he American Association for the Advancement of Science is to be congratulated for creating this successful and valuable congressional fellows program."
REP. RUSH HOLT (D-NJ): "For 30 years, the fellowship program has brought together Members of Congress with leading scientific practitioners and scholars in a variety of scientific fields. And this has provided a level of scientific expertise not otherwise found on most congressional staffs, and it presents the congressional fellows with an intimate role in the process of decision-making in public policy.... I was an AAAS Fellow 20 years ago...and I witnessed firsthand the important role that scientific expertise can bring to policy decisions.
"Since I have been a Member of Congress for the past 5 years, I have welcomed AAAS Fellows into my staff and fully integrated them into my staff because of the wealth of knowledge they provide and their ability to pose questions.... I have benefitted from their aptitude, their ability and their energy; and I will, as long as I serve in this body, continue to recruit these motivated and high-qualified experts and do everything I can to make this program a success. It has, in many ways, benefitted America."
REP. VERNON EHLERS (R-MI): "I thank the gentleman from New Jersey [Rep. Holt] for his comments and his co-sponsorship on this resolution.... He and I, as most people know, are the only two physicists in the Congress and I am told are the only two that have ever served in this Congress. That, I think, is an indictment of the scientific community because we should have more scientists in the Congress, but most scientists tend to shy away from this particular type of activity. But the Fellows that we are honoring here have filled the gap, as the gentleman from New Jersey has so clearly outlined. They provide some very badly needed scientific advice.... [T]he Fellows are extremely important in maintaining the scientific competence of the Congress, both House and Senate. Many of the Fellows have returned to their laboratories where they serve as a good liaison between the scientific communities and the Congress. Many others have chosen to stay here.... [Y]ou will find many former science Fellows in the halls of Congress, in the administration, playing a very vital role in keeping this Nation's governing bodies current in science. So this has been a very valuable enterprise."
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D-MA): "I have welcomed over twenty AAAS Fellows into my office since 1979 and have been consistently impressed by their contributions to policymaking and advising. They have made a significant positive impact on the quality of life for the people of Massachusetts, the United States, and the world by instilling a measure of science and humanity into the decisions we are asked to make in these chambers every day."
REP. FORTNEY "PETE" STARK (D-CA): "This program is a remarkable partnership between Congress and the 30 or so participating professional societies that select and fund the Fellows. At no cost to Congress, these Fellows offer their substantial expertise and experience to various personal offices and committees in return for the opportunity to be immersed in the legislative process. I have been fortunate enough to work with many AAAS fellows over my Congressional career. Without exception, they have been valuable additions to my staff. I especially appreciate the real world perspective they bring to us.... In my office, a fellow is treated exactly as other members of my staff. They have issue areas of expertise and perform all of the duties necessary to move those issues forward."
REP. SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R-NY): "The AAAS [program has made] literally incalculable contributions to this institution and the nation. It has enabled scientists to have a better understanding of the governing process - both the fellows themselves and scientists with whom they interact - and it has improved the governing process by enabling Congressional offices to better understand scientific information and scientists. The fellows program has also been an entry point for many of the best staff we have on Capitol Hill."