Science policy fellows program continues in 2019

The new financial year has seen the second year of the Science Policy Fellowships pilot program begin. Organised and initiated by the Chief Scientist and his Office, the program aims to provide a pathway for early and mid-career scientists to become skilled policy practitioners, and to grow the diversity of expertise within the Australian Public Service (APS).

Following on from its successful first year in 2018, where five of the seven fellows have moved on to permanent roles in the APS and one in non-government policy organisation, the 2019 program is placing 11 fellows in 10 departments.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel said that it was rewarding to see a doubling in the number of departments across the APS supporting the program for 2019.

“The support from a wide variety of government departments illustrates a solid understanding of the value of including scientific advice into the policy making process, and the skills and knowledge that a working scientist can bring to the table.

“Seeing all but one of the 2018 fellows take up a permanent policy role is very rewarding and I look forward to similar outcomes for the 2019 program participants.”

The year-long program also provides mentoring, and the 2018 participants will continue their commitment by supporting the incoming fellows and being the inaugural members of the alumni network.

Kim van Netten studied chemical engineering at The University of Newcastle. Her 2018 fellowship placement was shared between the Resources 2030 Taskforce and the Hydrogen Taskforce, at the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

“Being able to contribute to shaping the thinking within government on some of the biggest policy challenges facing Australia has been very exciting.

“I found being a Science Policy fellow stretches the value of my science degree because it enables you to think about the science behind a problem or policy area, and then place it in a broader economic, social and environmental context. The interplay of all of these factors is fascinating and learning how to consider all of them when solving problems has been invaluable.”

Kim says that having the opportunity to work on two taskforces during her fellowship gave her more opportunities than she could have ever imagined. “Right now, I’m working on a taskforce led by the Chief Scientist, which is incredibly exciting for a scientist!”

She has loved the year of learning that the fellowship offers. “The program has given me the opportunity to do something completely different, while recognising and valuing the problem solving skills I developed as a scientist.”

Kim also had some valuable advice for the incoming fellows. “Think about how your life experience can apply to the world of policy making – whether it be on a committee at university or some volunteering work. This experience in the fellowship program has shown me how collaborative government is, and the value of being in a team where everyone is genuinely trying to do their best.”

Applications for the third year of the pilot are due to open in November 2019.

2019 Science Policy Fellows with Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel