The following is a special contribution to the CCC blog by Peter Z. Revesz, 2012-14 AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense.
Do you want to have an impact in how Congress and Federal Agencies make laws and decisions regarding issues such as software patents, regulating the Internet, stem cell research, climate change, environmental pollution, STEM education, and funding basic research? Consider an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship (http://fellowships.aaas.org) which provides you with an opportunity to learn and help influence federal government decision making and make a positive impact on science-related policy. Beginning with the 2014-15 fellowship year, AAAS will be offering new fellowships in the area of “Big Data and Analytics.” My own experience described below is an example of how an AAAS Science & Technology (S&T) Policy Fellowship can make a difference.
I’m in the middle of a two-year AAAS S&T Policy fellowship (2012-14) on leave from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I’m a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. During my fellowship, I work as an International Program Manager at the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR). AFOSR is a basic research funding agency, which sponsors high-risk/high reward basic research that may make breakthrough scientific discoveries that could improve the next generation of Air Force technologies. AFOSR also helps transition some of the new discoveries to development by consulting with various Air Force Research Laboratories.
I work in AFOSR’s International Office, where many special challenges arise. Since AFOSR is not widely-known world-wide, it requires targeted advertising in order to be effective in attracting the best scientists for its grant applications. I use data mining to answer questions like: Who are the already established and the emerging leaders (researchers, institutes, countries, journals and conferences) in various specific scientific topics that are known to be of interest to the Air Force? In addition to those topics, which other emerging topics may be also interesting to the Air Force? What are the research trends in various countries: publications, citations, funding, patents, number of PhDs, etc.? What are the various countries’ scientific strengths and weaknesses?
My data mining efforts already have had four different impacts: First, Program Managers receive quantitative feedback about whether they have funded the best scientists, or if they may have overlooked some of the best scientists. Second, Program Managers used my data mining to generate new fundable grant proposals. Third, my data mining results were used as arguments to expand operations to new regions and countries. Fourth, I discovered new data mining techniques, which may be published and potentially used at other funding agencies. The most satisfying aspect of my work is to add to the funding process an objective view that helps to make the process more effective and fair.
To learn more about AFOSR’s work visit http://www.wpafb.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=8131. Each AAAS S&T Policy Fellow has a unique experience and story to tell. To learn more about fellows click here: http://www.aaaspolicyfellowships.org/40-intro. To learn more about the fellowships and to apply visit: http://fellowships.aaas.org/index.shtml.