SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Simons Foundation are Bringing Together Scientists and State Leaders

The Simons Foundation’s $5 million grant will fund the New York State Science Policy Fellows program, which will connect early-career science, technology, and engineering scholars with state leaders

Albany, NY — Every year, government leaders in New York State make decisions on complex issues, such as energy, the environment, and public health that affect the state’s 20 million residents and have broader impacts across the country and planet.

The State University of New York’s Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Simons Foundation have launched a new initiative to bring additional science and technology expertise into that critical decision-making process.

Through a $5 million grant from the Simons Foundation, the Rockefeller Institute of Government will establish the New York State Science Policy Fellows program. Each year, the program will send six new fellows with doctorates in science, technology, or engineering to the state’s capital of Albany. The fellows will work closely with senior policymakers in the offices of the governor, the legislature, and state agencies for a two-year period while also participating in professional development coursework.

SUNY Chancellor King said, “SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government is perfectly positioned to be a bridge between leading researchers at SUNY and other institutions and state government agencies so that together we can solve the most pressing public policy challenges. We are grateful to the Simons Foundation for their ongoing support and generous gift that will allow scientific experts to gain early-career experience by informing policy that will impact all New Yorkers.”

The program plans to welcome its first six fellows in the fall of 2024. Each fellowship will last two years, with the fellows completing a capstone project in their second year related to a key science and technology policy issue facing New York State.

“Providing policymaking experience to early-career scholars and allowing these scholars to increase the capacity of science expertise within the state government is hugely beneficial,” says Simons Foundation President David Spergel. “We look forward to seeing this program develop over time and benefit both the fellows and the leaders with whom they collaborate.”

“We’re looking forward to launching and establishing the New York State Science Policy Fellows program as an outstanding resource for state policymakers to gain helpful techno-scientific expertise in the years to come,” says Robert Megna, president of the Rockefeller Institute of Government. “This is a wonderful opportunity to build a tremendous asset for state leaders and provide early science and technology scholars with a foundation in policymaking.”

In addition to working full-time with senior policymakers, fellows will participate in an educational and professional development program created by the Rockefeller Institute of Government. This training will prepare the fellows to work directly with policymakers. During their first year, fellows will participate in a week-long orientation and undertake regular coursework structured around guest speakers from various state policy backgrounds and readings on science-related public policy.

During the program, fellows will also regularly meet with an assigned mentor whose career and experience will help guide the fellow’s potential future work in the public sector.

The new fellowship program joins initiatives sponsored by other organizations that have successfully connected scientists with policymakers in state and federal governments, such as the California Council on Science and Technology’s S&T Policy Fellowships, the Missouri Science and Technology Policy Initiative, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science & Technology Policy Fellowships.

“The Rockefeller Institute of Government has significant experience in working with fellows and building strong policy programs,” Spergel says. “We’re confident they will be able to develop and foster a valuable program in Albany.”