We are a group of graduate students (and a few undergrads,post-docs, faculty, and staff!) at UC Berkeley in STEM fields who are excited about the intersection of science and policy, eager to learn and share our knowledge on how policy influences science and vice-versa. Our group explores how scientists can better communicate with policymakers, and we turn that into action while interfacing with local, state, and national elected representatives. We strive to increase conversation among students and the broader community on science policy issues, enable students to advocate for science and evidence-based policies, and provide science policy-related educational and professional development opportunities for students.

We meet twice a month on Tuesdays at 6:00, alternating between invited speakers (see our Events page) and internal meetings where we work on our projects. Sign up for our newsletter and come check us out!

Science Meets Science: We can, but should we?

The Science Policy Group at Berkeley was recently awarded a Civic Engagement Microgrant from Research!America under its Science Meets Science initiative, an effort to bridge social scientists with STEM scientists. With this microgrant, we will be launching a short series of events on scientific ethics motivated by the phrase, “We can, but should we?” Through these events, we will connect students and researchers with policymakers and local citizens to initiate cross-disciplinary discussion and eventual policy action. For our series, we have selected three topics in science ethics and will host multiple topic-specific events including (1) public forums between leading experts, (2) action-oriented policy roundtables focused on developing one-pagers and white papers, and (3) ethics-centered informational videos for the general public. Our topics and timeline are as follows:

  • November 2019 – After the Wildfires: Where should we live?
  • January 2020 – Don’t Have a Cow: Will fake meat save the planet?
  • March 2020 – Artificial Intelligence: It’s smart but is it just?

Our first public forum, “After the Wildfires: Where should we live?” is on Monday, November 25th, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM PST in Anthony Hall. We will be joined by:

  • Professor Scott Stephens – Professor in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley
  • Dr. Laurie Johnson –  Urban Planning Consultant
  • Professor Louise Comfort – Professor of Public and Urban Affairs and Director of the Center for Disaster Management at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh; Visiting Scholar at the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS)

More details about the project can be found here and on the #scimeetssci channel on our Slack.

Plastic waste reduction meta-review

Members of the Science Policy Group at Berkeley have assembled a meta-review on plastic waste reduction for the National Science Policy Network 2020 Election Initiative, an effort to promote science policy regarding critical issues in the US ahead of the 2020 election. The meta-review summarizes resources in four categories:

  1. Policy resources – We have compiled resources that provide guidance in crafting legislation that addresses plastic pollution.
  2. Existing and proposed legislation – We have identified relevant legislation at the state, national, and international levels.
  3. Data resources – We have compiled studies on plastic waste management, the economics of plastic recycling, and the effects of microplastics on human health and the environment.
  4. Stakeholders – We have found organizations that play an active role in shaping the agenda for plastic pollution reduction.

Alex Epstein, Julie Fornaciari, Emily Harari, Will Horner, Katie Latimer, Ananya Nandy, and Emma Vargo contributed to this effort.

Crowdfunding Success!

In April 2019, we crowdfunded over $2,400 for our science policy projects from nearly 40 donors. This was 160% of our original goal of $1500! This money will allow us to grow our projects, including advocacy trips to Sacramento, STEMVotes, various guest speakers we invite to campus, and similar initiatives. We’ve already begun utilizing these funds, and they have been a tremendous boon to SPG. While our crowdfunding page is no longer accepting donations, you can still check out descriptions of our projects there or donate directly to SPG through UC Berkeley here!

Actions for Lawmakers in the Wake of PG&E’s 2019 Bankruptcy

In response to the 2018 California wildfires and subsequent PG&E bankruptcy, Science Policy Group members Erin Sullivan​, Christopher Jackson​​, Daniel Broberg​​, Mark O’Dair​​, and Vetri Velan ​wrote a policy memo to California lawmakers. The document highlighted several key topics for those in Sacramento to consider as they decide how to weigh in on the proceedings. These include managing the future of renewable energy, energy access, and wildfire liability. They conclude that it is in the best interests of all Californians to establish a wildfire fund, coordinate energy purchases and distribution among new local energy providers, and scale up local energy storage capacity.

Read the full text of their memo here.

SPG at the 2019 BERC Energy Summit

Members of our group had the opportunity to meet with Senator Kevin de León after his keynote address at the 2019 BERC Energy Summit, hosted by the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative. Thanks to Senator de León’s leadership on legislation such as SB100, California is moving forward with equity-based policies to advance clean energy and climate action. We particularly appreciate his inclusion of science in the policy making process and look forward to supporting California lawmakers in future endeavors.

From left to right: Chris Jackson, Danny Broberg, Kevin de León, Andrew Bremer, Erin Sullivan.

SPG Policy Project Group Formation/Selection

On Tuesday, 1/29, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM in 468 Birge Hall (this is a new location), SPG will meet so that members can form and/or join policy project working groups for the semester. New members are always welcome! Currently planned meetings include STEMvotes and the PG&E Bankruptcy Memo groups. If you have another project you’d like to advertise or work on, please let us know!

STEMvotes will focus on (1) lessons learned from last semester and (2) starting a new voting-related project. Previous discussion over (2) included ideas such as writing a white paper related to voting patterns on college campuses and hosting things related to civic engagement, such as visiting Berkeley City Council. We will use the working meeting to gauge interest, set general goals, and establish a regular meeting time.

The PG&E bankruptcy group is putting together a policy memo related to the PG&E bankruptcy debacle. This will appeal to any members interested in energy policy or those looking to improve their science communication skills.

Democracy 101: Political Engagement Beyond Voting

By Erin Sullivan, Eric Lee, Christopher Jackson

“After last November’s elections and the past several politically tumultuous years, we hope that many residents of Berkeley and individuals around the country are more politically engaged than ever and are eager to make their voices heard. However, your civic duty doesn’t stop after casting your ballot. As residents of Berkeley, with its rich history of political engagement and access to all the resources that entails, we have a unique obligation to engage with our government throughout the year, every year.”

Read entire Op-Ed in the document below!

Voter Information Night Slides

Miss the voter information night? Download our slides for a quick primer on all state propositions and local ballot measures!

Important Dates:
Voter Registration Deadline: Monday, 10/22
California voters can check their registration status and register through the Secretary of State’s website.
Election Day: Tuesday, 11/06

For more information about getting out the STEM votes, check out the StemVotes Initiative!

SPG Hosts Voter Information Night

How informed are you for the November midterm election? Save yourself a Google search, grab some free food, and learn about upcoming ballot measures with the Science Policy Group. Drop in to ask questions about each ballot measure or listen to our nonpartisan summary presentation (6:15 – 6:45 PM).

If you’re interested, please RSVP on Facebook and/or Eventbrite so that enough food may be provided.

Important Dates:

Voter Registration Deadline: Monday, 10/22
California voters can check their registration status and register through the Secretary of State’s website.
Election Day: Tuesday, 11/06

For more information about getting out the STEM votes, check out the StemVotes Initiative!