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The Public Value of Science Policy

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By April Heyward
April 8, 2022

Science policy is global, multifaceted and vast with many contributions to its foundation and current state. One of the most significant contributions to the construct and current state of science policy in the United States is Science the Endless Frontier by Vannevar Bush. In 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt inked a letter to Bush who was the Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development for recommendations on public welfare, national security, war against disease and developing a scientific workforce. Bush convened with experts to focus on these areas and to provide counsel that would ultimately lead to the development of an extensive science policy agenda that would be employed for decades to come. Science the Endless Frontier is the formal response to President Roosevelt’s request for recommendations and it was submitted to his successor, President Harry Truman, in 1945. It was noted that scientific progress is essential, which still holds true today with complex, tame and wicked problems now being addressed at a higher level compared to the 1940s. The war against disease is ongoing and requires a higher level of science sophistication for infectious diseases such as COVID-19 that has extended to COVID-22. Technology advancements have extended the capabilities and capacity of the military and military research with the integration of artificial intelligence, robotics, drones, etc. One of the key independent variables in scientific progress is the STEM workforce pipeline. April Heyward has been researching the Public Value Theory developed by Mark Moore as part of her academic research. In concert with Heyward’s experience as a STEM professional in the public sector and years of STEM service, Heyward aims to apply Moore’s theory to underscore the public value of science policy.

Moore put forward in his book, Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government, that one of the primary aims of public management is to create public value for citizens, as citizens are the primary customer of the public sector. One of the vehicles to create public value for citizens is public policy which allows the actions of the government to be administered to the public. Scientific progress is creating public value for citizens and science policy facilitates scientific progress. Science policy cannot be confined to a single characterization. It is a multipurpose intervention for identifying and solving complex, tame and wicked problems; supporting, fostering and funding basic and applied research; building, extending and sustaining the STEM workforce pipeline; increasing the research infrastructure, capabilities and competitiveness of public and private entities inclusive of its members; supporting, fostering and funding innovation; and fostering domestic and cross-border collaborations among academia, industry and government which also lends itself to science diplomacy. Building, extending and sustaining the STEM workforce pipeline is critical to scientific progress. See Figure 1 for the STEM Workforce Development Pyramid. Exposing students to STEM at an early age is essential, especially at the elementary and middle school levels. This exposure is not solely through class instruction. There is a plethora of STEM initiatives that reinforce and extend STEM exposure such as STEM camps for K-12 students, Research Experiences for High School Students and Research Experiences for Teachers (K-12). STEM camps are developed with age-appropriate STEM content and provide hands-on activities. Research experiences for high school students not only broaden STEM exposure and knowledge, but also provide age-appropriate training in employing the scientific method and communicating research progress and results via oral and poster presentations. K-12 teachers influence and reach a significant number of students. Research experiences for teachers engage K-12 teachers in research and provide the latest information on select research topics and methods which can be employed in the classroom.

The primary aim of exposing students to STEM at the K-12 level is to encourage them to become STEM majors at the higher education level. If the two-year STEM degree program route is selected, students have the option of going into the workforce upon matriculation and/or bridging to a four-year STEM degree program. Research experiences are provided for two-year and four-year students. Research training at the higher education level expands significantly from the K-12 level and students can become co-authors and lead authors of publications. In continuing to build capacity of the STEM workforce, another aim is for STEM majors to advance to graduate school for STEM Masters and Ph.D./Doctorate degrees, as well as to continue their research training. Upon matriculation, graduates can pursue STEM academic, government or industry careers. Postdoctoral fellowships provide additional training after completing Ph.D./Doctorate degrees, but are optional and depend on the academic discipline and career route. There can be greater expectation for Biochemistry PhDs to complete postdoctoral training if the career goal is a tenure track faculty career. It may not be necessary for a Social Science Ph.D./Doctorate to complete postdoctoral training if the career goal is a tenure track faculty career. There is public value in STEM workforce development. See Figure 2 for STEM Workforce Development Impact Cycle. Building the workforce leads to the conduct of research which yields discovery of new scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge creates new products, services, processes and ideas that lead to business and job creation.

Author: April Heyward is an Author for PA Times, Public Sector Practitioner, 4th Year Doctor of Public Administration Student, and a R Programmer that employs Machine Learning in the Social Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ heyward_april. All opinions and views are her own and does not reflect the views and opinions of her affiliations.

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