Career Options Away from the Bench: Science Advocacy
Careers in neuroscience might be at the bench — and they might be in the halls of Congress, the secondary classroom, a pharmaceutical company or an academic dean’s office. A new series of SfN videos highlights options, including advocacy.
Fortunately, a number of options are available to STEM scientists, including advocacy work that advances the goals and impact of research and development in neuroscience. Focusing his efforts on increasing awareness about the need for scientific research, Chris Schaffer became an advocate for science in Washington, DC, where his background and knowledge of science is key to working with policy makers on Capitol Hill. Schaffer discusses his career in a video in the NeuroJobs Career Center on SfN.org.
“I think it started sort of in the climate change/energy policy nexus where there’s been an approach of attacking and discrediting some of the science that was done with aims of advancing an agenda, and frankly, when I saw that, that scared me a bit,” Schaffer says in the interview. “And I worried about that spreading out into other areas. And that’s one of the things that drove me to come down and spend a year in working in Congress.”
Schaffer was awarded an Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Science Policy fellowship by The Optical Society (OSA), and SPIE, the International Society for Optics and Photonics. His year-long fellowship, organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), allowed him to do policy work in the office of Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). Schaffer encourages other scientists to find their passion and learn how to convey that passion to nonscientists.
“I’d say that there are enormous opportunities in the government and policy making for people who have scientific training,” Schaffer says. “Government agencies are looking for people like this and want to pull them in, either as temporary positions or as permanent positions, as someone they go and turn to when they're looking for advice, so there your position would be with a nongovernmental organization or a lobbying firm or advocacy group, but there’s a desire for scientific input in the policy-making process.”
The NeuroJobs Career Center has additional information about these careers and others, including requirements, salaries, and places to look for job positions. You can also join the mentoring program or view current job openings.
SfN members can start a conversation on this topic by signing in to the Careers Outside Academia community on Neuronline.