The Science Policy Group at Berkeley

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!

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!

SPG sends four to CASE workshop

Four SPG members–Stephanie Mack, Jo Bairzin, Clarke Knight, and Andrew Bremer–recently had the opportunity to join nearly 200 graduate students from across the country at the “Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering” (CASE) conference in Washington, D.C. Organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the annual CASE conference provides STEM students an in-depth look into science policy at the federal level. The conference covered topics ranging from the budget and appropriations process, tools for effective science communication and civic engagement, and why good policy isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to passing a bill.Join Stephanie, Jo, Clarke, and Andrew in a “Lessons Learned” seminar on Wednesday, April 11th from 6-8 in the Toll Room at the UC Berkeley Alumni House. They will discuss key takeaways from the conference and their experiences visiting with policymakers on Capitol Hill. A networking reception will follow for attendees to connect with other campus community members interested in the intersection of science and policy. Please be sure to RSVP if you plan on coming. An additional Lessons Learned seminar will take place on Tuesday, April 24th from 12-1pm in Anthony Hall (no RSVP needed).

Read more about the event from coverage by both UC Berkeley and AAAS!

SPG members featured in Nature correspondence

Last November, SPG exectuive board member Andrew Bremer was featured in a Nature correspondence along with two other UC Berkeley graduate students. They argue that in the face of limited career options for PhD students in academia, universities need to better prepare students for other career paths. Read the full correspondence in Nature, Volume 551 from November 2017.

Looking back on the tax bill

In the last few weeks of 2017, Vetri Velan and Kathy Shield shaped the national conversation with their analysis and calculator for determining how the proposed tax plan could impact graduate students. Ultimately, their efforts paid off, and the final language did not include the changes to graduate students’ taxes on tuition money. With support from the UC Berkeley Government Relations and Communications teams, the Graduate Student Assembly, and even Chancellor Carol Christ herself, as well as the rest of the SPG members making phone calls to their representatives and sharing resources with their friends across the country, Velan and Shield were able to alter the narrative and get coverage in local, state, and national publications. (See below)

Not sure how tax code section 117(d) matters? Read Velan’s analysis here.

The calculator was open for anyone to use nationally, and provided information to thousands of students, journalists, and activists.

 In addition to these publicly available resources, additional information about calling representatives was made available to university students across the country, and Shield wrote a short memo that UC representatives in Washington DC brought to the Hill. Shield and Velan were recognized on Jan. 12, 2018 by Rep. Barbara Lee when she entered a summary of their efforts into the 115th Congress’ Congressional Record., and presented them with commemorative plaques at a community event the next day.

Working to influence policy at the national level was an eye opening experience for both students and the group as a whole that led to new relationships within the university and with student leaders nationwide. As a group, we look forward to continuing to work with the contacts we’ve made to continue supporting science and scientists nationally.


LMT Online –

314 Action on campus

The Science Policy Group is teaming up with 314 Action to bring that group’s founder and president, Shaughnessy Naughton, to campus to discuss Science, Politics, and Policy. Our discussion will revolve around the challenges scientists face in politics and the importance of including science in the process of policy-making.

The event will be held at Anthony Hall on Monday, December 18 at 5:30pm and is open to the public. The discussion will be followed by a networking reception.

If you’re interested in joining us, please RSVP here:

314 Action is an organization that supports scientists and STEM professionals seeking elected office.