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The Neuroscience and Public Policy dual degree will respond to growing demands for employees with strong combinations of technical and policy skills in academia, government, and business.
In academic settings, public policy schools and biology departments are increasingly recognizing the importance of hiring faculty who can link biology and science and technology policy. Perhaps just as importantly, faculty who are trained in biology and public policy will be well situated to help universities grapple with the growing range of challenges to research policy, including human subjects, conflict of interest, animal welfare, biological departments and chemical safety and security, patenting, and more. Such faculty will be valuable members of biology departments or, if they choose to pursue these issues on a full-time basis, candidates for faculty positions in bioethics programs.
In government contexts, two career tracks have emerged for students with strong technical and policy skills. One is in the area of research management. Currently, a range of federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Centers for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services, Defense Department, and others, employ biologists in research management, program management (including management of funding programs), and leadership positions. The La Follette core curriculum provides an ideal mix of policy analysis and management skills designed especially for government management and policy analysis career tracks in these types of positions.
Second, over the next decade, we also anticipate that federal agencies, Congress, and state governments will increasingly be challenged to consider new laws and new regulatory systems governing the use of range of new biological technologies. Already, debates have begun to surround technologies such as genetic engineering and stem cells. As these debates expand and acquire political significance, scientific leaders with skills that bridge the biological sciences and policy analysis will be called upon to fill positions on legislative staffs, at private-sector think tanks and consulting organizations, at regulatory agencies, and at scientific institutions such as the National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, and National Institute of Medicine. A good opportunity for exploring options in this area is through the Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program offered by AAAS an other, closely related postdoctoral internship programs in Washington, DC, such as at NIH.
Beyond academic and government contexts, the private sector can be expected to increase its demand for students with technical and policy training. A major trend in government policy has been the outsourcing of a great deal of technical policy analysis to major consulting firms, many of whom are likely to increase their demand for biology and policy training. In addition, biotechnology firms have increasingly begun developing their own bioethics advisory panels to govern in-house research. Here, too, is an opportunity for students trained in biology and policy to make an immediate impact in the private sector.