Science Policy Bootcamp! Calling All Researchers!

SOCORRO, N.M. February 12, 2010 – Scientists are frequently called to Washington, D.C., to serve as experts or consultants to congressional members and staff, and interact with science and funding agencies on many levels. New Mexico Tech presents a “Science Policy Bootcamp” to help professors and students learn the finer points of working in the nation's capital.

Allyson Anderson, science consultant for Sen. Jeff Bingaman will discuss a variety of topics during the daylong event Thursday, Feb. 18. Dr. Peter Folger, a specialist in energy and natural resources policy at the Congressional Research Service, will also participate.

The event, subtitled “From Researcher to Wonk,” is free to the campus community. The workshop will be from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the third floor ballroom of the Fidel Center. Anyone interested in attending all or parts of the course can reserve space by contacting Connie Apache at the Bureau of Geology at 835-5302 or

Dr. Peter Scholle, director of the Bureau of Geology, and Dr. Rick Aster, chair of the Earth and Environmental Science Department, will serve as hosts.

Scholle said Anderson discussed with him the concept of bridging the gap between scientists and policy makers through in a workshop geared toward the research community. Scholle offered to host Anderson’s first such course at New Mexico Tech. She hopes to present similar workshops at national geology conventions. After earning a master’s degree in geology, Anderson worked as a petrophysicist for Exxon Mobil in Houston. She served as a Congressional Science Fellow from 2006 to 2007 through the American Geological Institute, where she worked for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. That fellowship eventually became a full-time position. Her area of focus is geoscience, including carbon sequestration and geothermal energy. She is enthusiastic about her volunteer work on public outreach, education and career opportunities in Earth science.

Folger’s areas of specialization have included carbon sequestration, geothermal resources, helium, potash, groundwater and other resource-related issues. He was the Director of Outreach and Research Support for the American Geophysical Union for eight years before taking his current position at the Congressional Research Office.  He earned his doctorate in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

Following introductions, the event will kick off at 9 a.m. with “Legislative 101: Schoolhouse Rocks.” Anderson and Folger will talk about the function of Capitol Hill staffers, how bills become law, and broadly explain how Congress works. They’ll also present a mock Congressional hearing, in the style of The Onion.

From 10 to 11 a.m., the workshop will focus on funding priorities, appropriations, authorizations and how scientists exert influence in the halls of Congress.

The third session is “Laws Aren’t Just For Lawyers,” focusing on legislation that scientists should know. Anderson and Folger will discuss the National Environmental Protection Act, various Energy Policy Acts, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and other pertinent laws.

After lunch, discussion will focus on the alphabet soup of federal funding agencies: NSF, NASA, DOE, DOI and DOD, among others. Anderson and Folger will talk specifically about how to apply effectively for federal grants.

The afternoon will wrap up with two more sessions on the relationship of policy and science and the “Secrets to Success,” which will focus on communicating effectively with non-scientists.

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By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech