A look back at last year, and plans for 2017-2018

July 19, 2017

To the Penn Community:

In the fast paced and changing world we live in it is now more important than ever for policymakers to rely on facts. Our current political climate has exposed the serious need for science informed policymaking and also the importance of maintaining and establishing collaborations with other countries. In the past year, the Penn Science Policy Group (PSPG) and the Penn Science Diplomacy Group (PSDG) have been organizing events to address this gap in our Penn and Philadelphia community. Our groups consist of graduate and undergraduate students, and postdoctoral fellows interested in learning about the intersections of science, government, and international relations. We have sought to educate the Penn community on the relationship between science and society, and to create an environment that provides scientists with the tools necessary to become effective science advocates. For these reasons, PSPG and PSDG established a strong collaboration which proved to be successful and launched us into the most productive year in the history of both groups and a year that changed for the better PSPG’s and PSDG’s future.

We organized social and career driven events, panel discussions, roundtable discussion groups, projects with various Embassies, a visit to Washington DC including the U.S. State Department, and the first ever Penn Science Policy and Diplomacy Symposium. The events we organized served to advance our groups overarching goals (described below).
  1. Encourage scientists to pursue careers in science policy, diplomacy, and politics. To this purpose we organized the following events:
    1. Career seminar with Dr. Christopher Yarosh, PSPG’s former Vice President, and the American Chemical Society Science Policy Fellow (2016-2017). Dr. Yarosh spoke about his career and the role of non-governmental organizations in science policy.
    2. Career seminar with Dr. Molly Sheehan, a Postdoctoral fellow in Bioengineering at Penn who is running for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District seat. Dr. Sheehan spoke about her transition from academia into politics, the challenges of starting a campaign, and how scientists can get involved in politics.
  2. Inform scientists about policy implications.
    1. Roundtable discussion groups on science topics and their legal, ethical and social implications. The topics discussed in the past year included: Anonymous Peer Review and Reproducibility in Science, Training the Graduate Student Workforce, and the March for Science.
    2. Panel discussion in collaboration with 314 Action on “The importance of science-informed policy and lawmaking”. After the panel discussion, we also hosted a reception and book signing with Dr. Mann for his latest book, Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.
    3. Panel discussion in partnership with the Earth and Environmental Science Department at Penn on the fate of domestic and international climate energy policies.
  3. Established partnerships with international organizations and embassies to execute diplomacy projects.
    1. Penn-Cuba partnership which seeks to develop a framework to allow the exchange of research and students between Penn and ICM in Cuba with the help of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
    2. Project with the Lithuania Consulate to help determine why Lithuania has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, this project allowed members to travel to Lithuania for interviews and field research.
    3. Latin America health policy evaluation, a project whose goal was to study how nutritional policies (i.e. sugar tax, food labeling) lead to changes in health indices in the region.
    4. Project with the Embassy of Philippines and Integrating Science in the Philippines to improve the access to science and innovation in the country, includes videoconferences, and sharing resources and materials.
    5. Spanish podcast, Caminos en Ciencia, which seeks to highlight the pathways Latin American scientists at Penn and other institutions have followed to become researchers.
    6. North Korea Project in partnership with Friends in Health have allowed PSDG members to attend medical conferences at Pyongyang University to present their research.
  4. Provide scientists with the tools to become better science advocates.
    1. Led efforts to transport students, postdocs, faculty members, and members of our Philadelphia community to attend the March for Science in Washington, DC.
    2. Organized a visit to Washington D.C. to attend the AAAS Science and Diplomacy one day conference. Presented posters on the projects described above.
    3. Organized a visit to the State Department and the Philippines Embassy.
    4. Organized the first Penn Science Policy and Diplomacy Symposium with a focus on science advocacy. This was a day-long event that included talks from guest speakers working in science policy and/or diplomacy, a career panel, and a workshop on science communication.
  5. Promote science communication by managing and producing content for a blog and podcast focused on science policy and diplomacy issues.
    1. Members of our Penn community are welcomed to write blog posts or participate in our podcast series to discuss science policy and/or diplomacy topics.

After a productive and successful year, the leaderships from both groups recognized and agreed that combining our efforts would work best, thus PSPG and PSDG have merged into one group. We formally introduce the Penn Science Policy and Diplomacy Group (PSPDG). It is PSPDG’s mission to continue efforts in organizing events to promote our goals, and to engage the larger scientific community at Penn and Philadelphia. We welcome everyone who is interested in our group to become a member and attend our future events. We look forward with excitement to the new year and our new group!


Adrian Rivera-Reyes, Co-President

Enrique Lin Shiao, Co-President

Ian McLaughlin, Co-President