This past Wednesday (04/03/2019), a group of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from Case Western Reserve University visited legislators at the Ohio State Capitol to discuss how a paid family medical leave program can improve STEM career retention in Ohio and the need for a science policy fellowship program to improve Ohio’s capacity for evidence-based policy.
Ohio’s Scientific Economy
Scientists and scientists in training are a significant part of Ohio’s economy and a primary driver of innovation. According to the Ohio Bioscience Growth Report from 2018, bioscience-related companies are found in 92% of Ohio counties. The over 3,336 bioscience-related organizations employ over 78,800 workers, and attracted over $2.7 billion in funding in 2017. The plastic and rubber industry is another historic driver of Ohio’s economy which the American Chemical Council expects to draw $36 billion by 2023. Clearly, Ohio’s economic future is tied to the success of the state’s scientific community.
Ohio’s Science/Policy Gap
State legislators increasingly encounter policy issues that require scientific and technical knowledge. Legislation is needed to address increasingly complex scientific problems in our society, yet there are few legislative aides and staffers with the scientific and technical training needed break these problems down for legislators to make informed decisions about what policies to implement. While meeting with legislators, we discussed the transferability of skills learned during scientific training. To address these deficiencies, we proposed starting a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship in Ohio. California implemented its own program as the California Council on Science and Technology in 1988, including a Science and Technology Policy Fellowship to provide a path for scientists into a career in policy analysis and implementation. The Ohio State government already has in place the Legislative Service Commission Fellowship, though it is more targeted towards recently graduated undergraduates with political science degrees. In the past 10 years of the program, there have only been three fellows with a STEM degree. Since there is already the infrastructure for a Policy Fellowship, we are confident that Ohio can implement its own Science and Technology Policy Fellowship with minimal startup costs, and develop its leadership in research and innovation to keep up with the increasing demand to apply scientific principles to the complex problems facing Ohio.
Keeping the Scientist in Science: Advocating for Paid Family Leave
Graduate students and postdoctoral researchers navigate gruelling hours in the lab while starting their lives and families. In 2018, 23% of new fathers and 43% of new mothers had left full-time STEM employment for other types of work or had left the labor force entirely . The loss of highly skilled researchers due to inadequate family leave is a detriment to the state of Ohio and its economic future. When we met with legislators, we advocated for the enactment of House Bill 91, which has been introduced to establish an opt-in family and medical leave insurance program.
Our first trip to the Ohio Statehouse was incredibly informative and successful!
Author: Caroline Schuerger, firstname.lastname@example.org
Caroline Schuerger, PhD Candidate in Molecular Medicine
Bill Lenart, PhD Candidate in Macromolecular Science and Engineering
K-Ann Buela, Postdoctoral Researcher in Pathology
Marie McCausland, Postdoctoral Researcher in Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Joseph Ortega, Postdoctoral Researcher in Pharmacology