Welcome to the Neuroscience & Public Policy Program
The University of Wisconsin-Madison established an integrated double degree program in Neuroscience and Public Policy in 2005. The Program is aimed at addressing an unfortunate truth; namely, that science policy and the law in the United States and elsewhere is frequently made by individuals who have little or no training in science, and, therefore, rely on scientists and engineers for advice, most of whom have little or no understanding of how public policy or the law is made. The result of this process is science policy and laws that often are not well conceived, frequently ineffective, and sometimes counterproductive. The Program, which is the only one of its kind in the country, is based on two strongly held beliefs: (1) that sound science and technology policy and law are essential for the well-being of societies; and (2) that a step toward ensuring such policy is to train future scientists in the making of public policy or the law and prepare them to participate in bringing science and society closer together.
Initially, the Program offered students the opportunity to earn a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience, which is granted by the Neuroscience Training Program, and a Master of Public Affairs (M.P.A.) degree, with an emphasis on domestic policy, which is awarded by the La Follette School of Public Affairs. The Program added a second double degree track in 2010 offering a Ph.D. degree in neuroscience and a Master of International Public Affairs (M.I.P.A.) degree that integrates neuroscience and international public policy. In 2011 the Program announced a J.D./Ph.D. dual degree track in law and neuroscience.
In each of the degree tracks, the Program brings together faculty from neuroscience, public policy, bioethics, sociology, and law to train research neuroscientists who will be qualified to help shape public policy or the law that should be informed by discovery in neuroscience. The cross-disciplinary training combines didactic and laboratory research training in neuroscience with a classroom-based and "hands on" education in public policy or the law.
Students in the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program meet all of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in neuroscience, which are set by the Neuroscience Training Program, those for the M.P.A. or the M.I.P.A. degree, which are determined by the La Follette School, or those for the J.D. degree as prescribed by the Law School. Neuroscience and Public Policy students also take the Neuroscience and Public Policy Seminar, which meets biweekly, during each of the years they are enrolled in the Program. The Seminar is a central element in the Program and challenges students to synthesize information that bridges neuroscience and public policy or the law, and to express this synthesis clearly in written critiques and oral presentations.
Regardless of which double or dual degree track is elected, the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program will engage students in an integrated sequence of coursework, seminars, laboratory rotations, and Ph.D. research. Students studying for the Ph.D. degree in neuroscience and a Master's degree in Public Affairs or International Public Affairs complete a core curriculum in molecular/cellular and systems neuroscience and a series of courses relevant to domestic or international public policy or both. Students who elect to earn degrees in neuroscience and in law complete the same course/research sequence in neuroscience that is required of neuroscience and public policy students. Neuroscience and law students also enroll in all of the required and elective courses to fulfill the requirements for the J.D. degree.
During the summer after the third or fourth academic year, all students complete an internship in an agency or institution involved with science policy. In addition to mastering research and policy/legal skills, students in the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program will learn to work with policy makers or within the legal community to apply knowledge from research in neuroscience to shape public policy and the law, and also to communicate to the public research discoveries in neuroscience and their implications for society.
Advances in neuroscience have raised important questions in a wide range of policy issues, domestically and globally, such as those affecting neurotoxins and the environment, mental health, child development, cognitive enhancement, criminal responsibility, the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals or medical devices, and the ethics and regulation of emerging discoveries, e.g., those associated with stem cells and their applications. To effectively address these and other policy and legal issues, there is a clear need for neuroscientists who have been trained to think critically about issues at the intersection of neuroscience and public policy, or neuroscience and the law, and who and have appropriate skills, experience, and networks to work effectively in bridging both disciplines. It is the aim of the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program to train such neuroscientists.
If you believe that training neuroscientists who will be competent in shaping public policy and the law will benefit society, please consider making a gift to the Neuroscience and Public Policy Program by clicking here.
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