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Careers in Science & Science Policy (with Ryan Bixenmann)

Careers in Science & Science Policy (with Ryan Bixenmann)

In this episode, Dr. Ryan Bixenmann from the California Council of Science and Technology talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about the importance of careers in science policy.

 
FEATURING Ryan Bixenmann
April 10th, 2022

46 MINUTES AND 51 SECOND

 


In this episode, Dr. Ryan Bixenmann from the California Council of Science and Technology talks with students from the UC Riverside School of Public Policy about the importance of careers in science policy.

About Dr. Ryan Bixenmann:

Ryan Bixenmann, Ph.D. is a Senior Science Officer at the California Council of Science and Technology (CCST). In this role, Ryan connects relevant experts to decision-makers that request additional technical information to carry out their mission and better serve Californians.

Learn more about Dr. Ryan Bixenmann via https://ccst.us/people/staff/ryan-bixenmann/

Podcast Highlights:

“I knew I wanted to do something outside of just research-I wanted to have an impact on society.”

-       Dr. Ryan Bixenmann on the topic of science careers focused on policy, not research.

“Knowing that people who are doing the cool stuff you want to do had help getting there and they talked to someone...”

-       Dr. Ryan Bixenmann on the topic of advancing your career through networking. 

“When you're sitting there with the power to make decisions, it's really difficult when you have a bunch of diverse stakeholders because they all have different perspectives, priorities, and needs.”

-       Dr. Ryan Bixenmann on the challenges of decision-making and the vast factors that need to be considered. 

Guest:

Dr. Ryan Bixenmann (Senior Officer at CCST)

Interviewers:

Kevin Karami (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Chief Ambassador)

Johanna Arias (UCR Public Policy Major, Dean’s Ambassador)

Music by:

C Codaine

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/Minimal_1625 https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Xylo-Ziko/Phase Commercial Links: https://spp.ucr.edu/ba-mpp

https://spp.ucr.edu/mpp

This is a production of the UCR School of Public Policy: https://spp.ucr.edu/

Subscribe to this podcast so you don’t miss an episode. Learn more about the series and other episodes via https://spp.ucr.edu/podcast.

Transcript

  • Transcript

     

    Kevin Karami: Welcome to Policy Chats, the official podcast of the School of Public Policy at the University of California Riverside. I'm your host Kevin Karami. Join me and my classmates as we learn about potential policy solutions for today's biggest societal challenges. Joining us today is Dr. Ryan Bixenmann from the California Council of Science and Technology. My fellow classmate Johanna, and I chatted with him about careers in science and science policy. 

     

    Kevin Karami: Dr. Ryan Bixenmann is a Senior Science Officer at the California Council on Science and Technology. He works to connect experts to decision-makers to better serve California. Dr. Bixenmann, it is an honor to have you with us today. 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Thank you. It's great to be here. 

     

    Kevin Karami: Before we dive into the nuances of careers in science policy and the importance of scientific policymaking. Which is the main subject of the episode. I'd like to first outline two major parts of your career to help establish examples of careers in this field for our audience, and also display their significance to you, but also to the general idea of careers in science policy. With all that being said, I understand that one of your most impactful positions that you've held earlier in your career was as a field assistant and naturalist guide in the Ecuadorian rain forests. So can you describe your background and your interests in his position and also what were your biggest takeaways afterwards? 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Yeah, absolutely. I think I might even step back and maybe put a bigger context on our conversation today in general. And as we were talking about setting this up and we're thinking about careers in science policy and science and kind of my career path. I think there were two big themes or lessons that really popped out for me. And the reason I chose a couple of things that ill share today. That is that as you are exploring and looking for those careers even if you're a senior and looking to advance your career. I think the two things that stand out and I'll try to highlight and my, my experience is the actual career exploration part. I think a lot of people, especially younger people, or maybe a lot of your audience who are still students, don't even know what's out there. I certainly didn't. I’ll come back around and talking about my time in Ecuador as a place where I really learned that breadth of opportunities. And then I think the other big point I want to make today is that people are so important to exploring and also getting the careers you might be interested in. And people can play all sorts of roles. And I'll probably talk about some of the roles that others have played in order to help me in my career. But I mean, it could be anything from a very tight mentorship relationship to just asking advice from a stranger to a number of other things. So I think those are two things I want to highlight through my experiences. They've been really important in a number of different contexts. As I share my background and history. Going back to your question about one of my first real pivotal points in my career was this opportunity to work in Ecuador at a remote eco-tourists Lodge and research station in the Ecuadorian rainforest. And I got it right out of undergrad. So I just finished my bachelor's in science in biology specifically. I don't know what your audience is like or it was like when they were going to that stage, I had no idea what I was going to do. I had been doing a number of different like student intern and research projects with my advisor. Also been doing a number of jobs as I did school and education. This opportunities who really interesting to me because it was in part continuing to do research, which was a whole new idea to me. Going my family, no one had been in research and only did science. We had bankers and lawyers and contractors and the people who were not necessarily committed with careers in academia. And in fact, the school I went to in western Colorado, Mesa State College at the time didn't have a grad program. There were no graduate courses at all. I didn't even know what you could do with I didn't know much about advanced degrees. I didn't know what I could do with a science degree. I just had no idea. I thought with a bachelor's in biology, I could be pre-med and going to be a doctor and that was about it. And so getting back to why I was interested in this position, it was a phenomenal experience to go see the world like go live in Ecuador. And part of my part of my job was leading tourists through the rain forest. So I had to do a bunch of research on what is the biodiversity and fundamentals of ecology and ecosystem, things like that. So that I can led these tours and talk about the science behind what they were seeing, the natural history behind what they were seeing. I got to travel throughout Ecuador and the best part of it as well. So it was a really unique experience. Then once a month, every week, every first week of each month. I was also doing research for my professor who sent me down there for the advisor I had. And we essentially looked at butterfly diversity. We'd sampled butterflies for a week, every month. All that to say this was a unique experience for me because it allowed me to explore one other important factors. Sorry, I got to say this. Another important thing was that because there was a field station attached to this eco-lodge, we also had visiting researchers come down a lot, I’d get to talk to the people that were coming down to do their own research on parts of the forest. And you just got to learn a lot from them, not only about the research, but how they got to where they were. And so by listening and hearing their stories, I started to understand. And also by doing my own research on what the areas of science were those interested in and what you could do with those degrees. And again, listening to people that are coming down, I really started to just open. My, my eyes are open to what all I could do. I learn about grad school. I had no idea what that was. I read it, understand it. It was just weird like foreign idea until I had been talking to all these researchers from grad students, postdocs, It's in your faculty coming down to the station and doing work and hearing how they got into the research they're doing, how they progress through their careers, the kinds of opportunities afterwards. And so the time in Ecuador was, was huge for me. It was foundational in that it opened my eyes to career exploration more broadly, that there is a whole world of things you can do with your degree that I didn't know are possible. At the time I didn't realize this, but looking back, I also started to recognize the importance of talking to people. And just like learning from all these different people, granted mostly in academia about what you could do with an advanced degree in science. Thinking about that more, I think that opened the door to a number of other things that at the time I didn't know about, which is one other caveat I might add to people looking to explore careers in science or science policy is that you may not always know the long-term trajectory of what your career is gonna be. Do your homework, do your planning, think ahead a few steps at least. But know that when you hear someone tell a really cool story about their career and how linear it sounds, and how they just built on everything they did before. The datas is a really highly edited story. going into it. It is probably a really circuitous route and sometimes things didn't work out and that might be locked off of a bio or off of your story or whatever. The work I did is this field assistant and tourist guide, ecotourism guide in Ecuador. I did because it just sounded really cool. It was something to do as I was coming out of undergrad and have something else to do. I got a lot of experience. I met a lot of people and it got me started down a path in science. That would be the foundation for other things later in my career, but I didn't know that at the time. I think one of the big lessons out of there is say yes opportunities. Really explore careers and you don't have to travel to Ecuador to explore something. There are internships and fellowships. Something I'll talk about little bit later is informational interviews. And that's really just reaching out to people and asking about their story. Kinda like this. This is a pretty formal version of an informational interview, but you can do it much more casually over a cup of coffee or something like that. And that's a really foundational way to learn about careers.

     

    Johanna Arias: Yeah, awesome. Thanks for sharing, Dr. Bixenmann and then of course, thanks for joining us. And as a graduating senior, I think it's really interesting how you mentioned how career exploration isn't linear, how it's very broad and how we don't see it at the start. That how, how it grew for you and how you came to be. So thanks for sharing. I really appreciate that. If you don't mind, I'm going to pivot into a different direction here. In regards to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the fellowship, Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. How can people, students, and scholars like myself take advantage of opportunities like those? 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Yeah, that's a great question and maybe I'll give it just a little bit of background on what that fellowship is. You can start to understand what I got out of it. triple AS for short, AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows. Are advanced degree holders in some area of stem science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, usually a PhD. But depending on your career and your background, some other advanced degree. Science Policy fellows are placed in across the federal government, mostly in the executive branch, across different agencies and departments. But there's also some in the legislative branch as well. And actually shortly after my tenure as a fellow, they started in the judiciary branch as well. So they are literally all over the federal government or at least all three branches of the federal government. I was placed at the National Science Foundation. I was placed in the division of graduate education, education. So we skipped from my work in Ecuador to this, but I'd gone between those two. There was a chunk of time. I had done a number of jobs. I went onto grad school, I got a PhD. I did a postdoc for a while. But a thread that tied all that stuff together was education, some sort of education informally or formally, not only for myself, but also really interested in doing it externally as well. So that's in my application to this fellowship. That's how I got put it in the education directorate and specifically the division of graduate education, fellows, do a diversity of different things. It's a real broad range depending on where they're placed. But really at the core of it. The fellowship is a professional development opportunity for the fellows. It's trying. One of its aims is to provide the fellows who are again, advanced degree holder in a stem field. Provided them structured professional development and a lot of ways, but also just some experience working in science policy. To prepare them for a diverse career in science policy or, or even a broader career. And a lot of the fellows really use the fellowship as that stepping stone into some other career path. Many of them, they range from very young fellows, like right out of grad school. I shouldn't say young early stage, early career stage fellows are out of grad school all the way to some senior scientists, but mostly they're in those first five to ten years of my actually probably first two to ten years after finishing graduate school. There's also of course, a benefit for the federal government as well. They get amazing, talent. I think opinions probably vary, but I think the best part of the talent they get is that you bring critical thinking and some fresh eyes to issues within your office. For me, I was in the National Science Foundation. I'm surrounded by scientists, but some other folks were in offices where maybe they didn't have the same kind of critical thinking and problem-solving skills you get in graduate school. And so that was a real bonus for that office regardless of what the topic was, my PhD was in tropical ecology and I worked at the Division of graduate education. Other than being a graduate student, I was not an expert in graduate education. There is some more extreme versions of someone having a degree in one area and doing their placement in a totally different area, as a fellow. It truly is a professional development experience for the fellows themselves. That's the background on it. How can people take advantage of something like that? I talked about one specific fellowship in science policy specifically. But I would say first of all, there are a lot of different ways to get something like this because it is a career exploration experience. It's a professional development experience. You can do those through internships. There are other policy fellowships that you can look into if you're not a scientist. Presidential Management Fellowship. Fellows is a really big program and a very prestigious one you can look into PMF is often the shorthand for it. AAAS, of course has a really well-known Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. Sea Grant has one for marine science especially called canals. At the California Council on Science and Technology, have a state-level Science Policy Fellowship as well. Other states have something like that. Most of these are graduate level fellowships because that’s what i'm familiar with. But there are also a number of fellowships, internships, experiences that you might be able to find with just an undergraduate degree as well. They range from a few months to years depending on what you want to do. But across all of them, I think that they provide you experience in education. They provide you access that you'd never really had before. In terms of being in the room for conversations or having a title that really shows you are there to learn and you can ask some questions that maybe you couldn't ask if you felt like you're a real employee. But also, there's just this understanding that you're there to grow professionally and to maybe explore career paths. So people are often really willing to have an informational interview with you to sit down and talk about their career and tell you what they did and tell you what was useful for them. And maybe even the mistakes they had along the way if they had. We all do. I think I've kind of gone off on a tangent a bit about fellowships and internships. But I'll say from my personal experience. One of the things I found most useful about my fellowship, actually two things. One, I didn't really know what a career in science policy meant. I don't even know what the term meant. In fact, we had some people come in and talk about what is science policy is it policy that influences how we do science. Using science to influence policy. Is it something else? We can go a lot deeper into what that means. And so I didn't really know what it was. But I knew I wanted to do something outside of just research. I really want to have a different impact in society. And I had talked to someone as a graduate student who's doing this program. So again, talking to people learning about their experiences is really important. That's how I learned about this fellowship. There was a stepping stone for me into science policy. 

     

    Johanna Arias: Alright, so the next question being, we did start to touch upon it a little bit there. And what aspects of science policy did you discover or uncover as a result of your experiences and your time at AAAS? 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: I think the things I discovered about science policy was just how broad it could be into the fellowship thinking that science policy was what legislators did. They may policy and scientists in the room to advise them on technical aspects of it, which is part of it. But one of the things I learned at, through structured professional development, actual speakers coming in and workshops. But also just by doing the work at NSF is that it really is top to bottom. It can be science policy. For those in the government it can mean anything from creating policies, whether it's through legislation or even internal policy sometimes to how you interpret that policy and then carry out your work and still meet the mission or or priorities set out in policy. I also realize it, it took a number of different skills outside of just being a scientific expert in this particular case for science policy, I think that fellowships and internships, like the AAAS one that I did, provide you an opportunity to learn those skill sets and practice those skill sets? It was an eye-opener that it wasn't good enough just to be an expert in your field of study. But you really needed to think about your leadership skills, your communication skills. There's a lot of interpersonal skills that are hard to soft skills or hard to really define. But how you work with others is really important. Some of those are, you can still learn those and teach those. But it's not just like studying a book, you get the practice of doing that was really important. What I learned from my time AAAS policy fellow was some of those some of those leadership skills interpreting policy, kind of reading between the lines. When you read a bill or a policy or something that what's really going on in there. What is motivating that, especially working at an executive agency, you also think you have a different lens than if you're working at the legislative branch. You're thinking about how do we meet the mission or how do we meet the goals of this piece of legislation or policy that are handed down to us as the executive. And what are our resources and how do we carry that out? So you just learn to see that policy world by experience that you don't necessarily have. By learning, by reading in a book. It was a lot of career exploration in learning those skills, but especially learning what are the different roles that you can have? In science policy. It's not just making policy. It's interpreting it, It's carrying it out. It's maybe improving how we go about doing that work. That's just kind of inside the government. Outside of the government. There's a number of things you could do as well in tuning, including advocacy, lobbying. There's funding. External funders outside the government can also influence policy and how policy gets done. There's activism that you can also do to start movements or keep movements going that can influence policy as well, both in the executive and legislative branches. I just learned about the breadth of those different kinds of experiences. It's too much to share here. I think the take-home lesson there is, as a student now, or if you have an internship or a fellowship or some opportunity where you get to explore a career path. Take advantage of your opportunities to meet with people. Say yes to some things that might be. Might feel like they're beneath you, but they give you access to people you hadn't thought of before. I started to talk about this earlier and I kind of lost the thread. But I think a great example of that in my own experience is as a policy fellow, NSF, I was asked to be the Executive Secretary for an interagency working group. When it was first brought to me, it sounds like a really dry experience. It was had the title Secretary in it. So I thought I was just gonna be taking notes like arranging calendars and things like that. In fact, I did those things. What what it did for me, it opened up for me was an opportunity to meet with regularly, monthly really with people that were the heads of education offices across different federal agencies. I worked with the two co-chairs for this committee. One was from the NSF and one was from the NIH. There are again in both education, had some role in education for those two organizations. They're pretty high up in those organizations. I worked with them a lot and I was emailing them, i was having prep calls with them, is writing reports with I did a lot of the legwork to get things done it was organizing meetings, but also had a lot of face time with those two people. I could ask them questions about why we do things the way we do them, or what's your strategy for taking care of this issue or whatever it might be. Just learning from someone who's Senior and gone through a lot by being in the room and listening to them was incredible. And if to do's you have to pay, is doing some of that legwork, it is still very much worth it. That's only with the two co-chairs. We also had representatives across. I can't remember how many we had. I'd say there's probably a dozen people that attended our meetings regularly. This working group.That was kind of that hub between the co-chairs and everyone else. So making sure work got done ot that things got communicated clearly such that tasks were assigned and reports are delivered back to us on time. I also a lot of face time with those, those sets of leaders across these different agencies. And I got to sit in the room and help run those meetings and I just had a lot of time with those folks and also had a chance to learn from them and talk to them both through that work. But also I just asked informally, like, do you have time for like 15 or 20 minute chat? I'd like to learn how you got to where you are. I could also see what they were doing. Asked myself, is that something I wanted to do and then set up a chat with them where I could ask them what it's actually like to do their work. And then what's their two pieces of advice or three pieces of advice about how to get there. What's the most useful thing? To round that out, to tie that together. I think one of the most useful things you can get out of a Policy Fellowship like that. One of the things I got out of it was just access to people in spaces you normally don't get, you get to see how the work is done. He learned firsthand by having access to those people, you can really pass them questions and they kind of expect it you're a fellow or an intern or some, or maybe even just a junior person on the team. Hey, no, you're gonna be going places, you're looking to grow your career. And they're usually happy to share that information with you because someone did it for them. 

     

    AD READ: Social injustice, health disparities, climate change. Are you interested in solving pressing challenges like these currently facing our region and the world? Then consider joining the next cohort of future policy leaders like me, by applying for the UCR Master of Public Policy program. Learn more at MPP.UCR.edu. You can also find the link in our show notes. 

     

    Kevin Karami: I think that’s a really great note to end on that question. And it actually perfectly transitions into the next set of topics we'll be discussing in the episode. I'm on science policy and specifically careers and how you can maximize your opportunities if you're interested in that. I think the first question I want to ask and you alluded to this. You spoke about it earlier on. Was the fact that you mentioned You weren't even aware earlier on in your career that that this even existed, that these kinds of opportunities were there you didn't know what a career in this field look like. And I think a lot of students and maybe even recent graduates are probably in that same kind of field and have that same mindset. I think the first question I want to ask here is, why is it like that? Why is it that so many people are unaware that you can have a career in science or a career in stem, but still, still have the opportunity to go beyond research and actually have an impact on the policy world and on people's lives. Why is it that people are unaware of this? 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Yeah, that's a fantastic question. One of the experiences, one of my roles after working as a policy fellow was as the director for PhD career services at Michigan State University. And my office was part of the graduate school at Michigan State. Essentially, I ran this off as the provided a number of services to help graduate students and postdocs explore careers, prepare for those careers, maybe even all the way up to applying for specific jobs in a lot of cases. I think career exploration was one of the biggest challenges there. And I think a lot of people didn't know, to your point, this population people I worked with. A lot of my frame of reference is for graduate students, but it's still that problem you're talking about is they just don't even know what's out there. And so why is that? Why do we not know what is out there? In terms of what I can do with this career, whatever. From my experience, my personal experience, but also working in that office. It's a set of skills to explore careers is not just a tangent to your work, It's not just an aside, it is a skillset that you will help you grow in your current role if you have one. And it will help you be prepared for the next role, even if it's within the same organization and you're advancing it. It'll help you think about what else is out there that might be a better fit for your skills or there might be opportunities you can take advantage of. What are these skills? What is this professionally, what does this career exploration and career development set of skills. It's a lot. It's a lot and we won't have time to talk about them all and I won't even pretend to be an expert who knows them all. But some of the ones that we really worked on PhD career services at Michigan State. Was essentially treating it like part of your job making a plan out of it using something called an individual development plan, IDP. And that's essentially just sitting down to map out where I am and what I want to do or what do we want to go? What's that job I want? is it the next one I'm thinking about, or is it the long-term art? You can start with a small one if that's where you are right now. I just know in the next year I want to be doing this. If you have a bigger picture for what you want to do, great buildup that roadmap to that longer-term goal. If you have no idea what that goal might be, that's your goal. Maybe exploring what those opportunities are by doing informational interviews, reaching out to people in areas of interests that could tell you about what their job is and how they got there. What's their advice for you? That's one set of skills. It's just kind of planning, thinking about your job and career as a set of skills and what's that plan to get there? I think another one is it's almost more of a mindset, but knowing that you will probably change a lot of your jobs and it's really important to. Be able to communicate with people what you're interested in and learn from those folks as well. So that, around to is mentorship. Mentorship is extremely important and it's not just something that happens. Learning how do you develop a good mentoring, mentor, mentee relationship, relationship, finding somebody you're comfortable with. Finding someone that has the advice you are going to have. Realizing that it's much more complex than just one mentor. You might have many. You might have someone who talks to you about some part of your career interests. Someone might talk to you about other parts of your career interests. I think another part of that mindset is also the professional development part that you're going to be doing your work. But you should also be thinking about how does doing other stuff that doesn't necessarily get my project done will make me better at doing my project, but also make me better at the next job I go do later. I think those are the three big areas that I helped a lot of graduate students with one was planning, like, let's sit down and when we think about jobs, It just seems like a jumble of things coming down the pike at you. Let's sit down and make a plan. What's the one next thing we'll break into pieces? What's the one next thing we're doing? A great tool for that as an individual development plan. it can be complex or it can be a set of bullets. About the next few things you want to do. I think the other big thing I talked to people about was informational interviews as a way to explore careers. And part of that's a mindset. Knowing that people that are doing the cool stuff you want to do had helped getting there. And they talk to someone or someone gave them a leg up or give them some advice or something like that. Getting in that mindset and then doing a bit of homework. Because there, there are some etiquette and rules and things, but you can Google informational interview. It'll give you some things. How do you ask them? What's the etiquette you should have in terms of what you talked about and don't talk about in the informational interview. What are great questions to ask? And those informational interviews, you should be in charge of, you should be leading it because you asked for the meeting. So that's the second one. Then. The third one is also just be thinking about not only what's the project I'm doing right now at school, work, whatever. But how can I do this better? Or how can I grow so that I can only get to do my work here better, but what my next career choice or jump or position is better as well. I think I went a little bit aside from your question, Kevin. I think the take-home is that people don't really know what those careers are out there because it is like a set of skills to really explore those careers and know those careers. And it takes time, and it really involves knowing people. But I don't think in at least in my experience going through academia as an undergrad, as a grad student, we didn't teach those skills. In fact, I think a good example is my time directing office. We were not a required part of anyone's curriculum. We were a resource on campus. I think we were a good resource on campus, but not everyone  came to see us. It was already thinking about getting that degree and doing their projects. So their class assignments, getting the credits to finish the degree, rightfully so you have to have those to get your degree and you learn a lot through that too. But this is another set of skills that can really help you explore careers and prepare for them. And that's ultimately, at the end of the day, what you're going to school for, right? And so this should be, I think personally, a set of skills that are taught as part of your professional training, whether it's as a student or throughout your career. 

     

    Johanna Arias: Another question comes to mind, Dr. Bixenmann, given the sheer importance of science policy and scientific policymaking, why do you believe that so many spheres, so many groups in society like our, general population, elected officials, why do you think they choose to disregard its significance even when it may seem inevitable in many discussions in climate change or environmental policy.What are your thoughts? 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Yeah, I think that's a really difficult one to answer for all those broad topics. I think you'd really have to take those case-by-case. And even then underneath the umbrella of climate change, That's really complex, abstract thing in a lot of ways. And why do we ignore some things and not other things? You'd have to look down to those more specific issues under climate change as to why some data is used and some is not. Some evidence is used in some is disregarded. So I don't think we have time to unpack all of those. Um, but I think across a lot of these topics. I would just say I don't know if it's always disregarded evidence or information or science. I wouldn't say it is disregarded. Some of them, sometimes it might be disregarded, but sometimes it's just that it's not known. Sometimes people just don't have access to the information that the decision-makers, whether that's a policymaker or legislator or, or an advocacy group or something else. They just may not know about that information. They may not also understand how to interpret that information as well. I think again, having people who can bridge that science and policy can be really helpful in that area. Then the other thing to think about is that a lot of these topics you brought up are really complex, complex topics that have the potential to affect a lot of different people. And those different peoples will experience those topics, those issues, those challenges differently. If you're a policymaker sitting at the center of this and you're listening to your constituents. There's a lot of trade-offs and think about beyond just in this case of climate science, just the climate science. It's got to be there. We got to use it. It's really important. But there's lots of other stuff to think about too. And I won't pretend to be an expert in the area and say how to do it. But I just think that those areas are really complex and nuanced. And so it's difficult to say why things are disregarded. In fact, a lot of times I don't know if they are disregarded or they're just in a bigger pack of other issues or trade-offs that someone in decision-making seat might have to balance. 

     

    AD READ: The UC Riverside School of Public Policy is excited to announce the launch in Fall 2022 of its new combined BA and Master of Public Policy program. As the only such program offered exclusively within a public policy school in the entire UC system, the UCR BA, MPP will allow public policy students to complete both their public policy major and graduate studies in five years. Learn more at SPP.UCR.edu slash BA dash MPP. For more information. You can also find the link in our show notes. 

     

    Kevin Karami: I think that's a really important point to also bring up that some of these topics are so complex, like you mentioned, climate change. We'd have to spend hours just dissecting one part of it, let alone the entire, entire subject. I think that's a really, really eye-opening way of looking at it. That it's not as simple as being completely disregarded, but rather than so complex. Then also from the constituent's perspective, there's so many other aspects of it. It's not as simple as solving the problem. 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Yeah. Just to follow up on that, I think I gave that experience earlier as a policy fellow. Sitting in that room, sitting in those rooms really all those meetings I had with these leaders. You start to really see that and that's something I don't know if you appreciate until you have a little more experience. But you start to see how nuanced like we were talking about science education on that task force I was a part of by NASA’s priorities and challenges in science education is different than NSS, NSF's priorities and challenges in science education. And it's different than NOAH's and it's different than NIH's and it's different than the EPA's and so on and so on. So even though we're all a bunch of scientists in this room together talking about science education and how important it is, especially graduate education. We all have different perspectives on it. And you start to see like when you're sitting there with the power to make decisions, it's really hard to do it when you have a bunch of diverse stakeholders. Because they all have different perspectives, different priorities, different needs. Even if, even if the public thinks we're all scientists clearly all think the same thing in that room. It was really different. 

     

    Kevin Karami: I think that's actually really, really interesting. And honestly, I didn't even think about it until you said it that people will just group up and say, Oh, scientists think all scientists have the same perspective. And therefore we should just, it should be super easy, but it's not, you know, even though when you discuss research or a specific evidence of something, maybe opinions might come together a little bit more. But when it comes to actually addressing them realistically, we're talking about, you know, like you mentioned, education. It's not as simple as the evidence is there. We should just do it. There's still so many different perspectives on how you go about that. And I think the, how will you mentioned me, think the how is what is forgotten super just public discourse. And I think that's a really, really eye-opening. 

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: I tell you what, the more I do different kinds of jobs and working with our experience, I really started to understand that devil's in the details of praise I get just like, yeah, there's a lot of ways we can do this. How we do it is gonna be really important. It is really difficult to figure out. 

     

    Kevin Karami: Yeah, and it impacts so many people that you also don't want to be rash, or make a decision too quickly and you only want to consider everyone's perspective and opinions. And I think that actually translates perfectly into our final question. What your current work is at CCST, what do you do? And maybe any other concluding remarks you might have? 

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: Sure, sure. Yeah. I'm relatively new to CCST. I joined them a few months ago, but I'm really excited to be here. CCST, California Council on Science and Technology. CCST.  worked to bring experts in a diversity of different subjects, usually science, technology related subjects, bring that expertise to the policy-making process. And we do that through a number of different programs at CCST. I think there's three there. I want to highlight that are kinda big programs. One is we have a National Academies of Science style consensus report where we'll will someone will give us requests to do a report on some subject, will put a community together to define what the scope of that studies is going to be. What are the questions we want to answer? they'll bring in experts, do background research on it. We'll put a report together. And then there's peer review of that report by experts in the field. And we published that report. And those reports are usually at the behest of the state legislature, but they can be for other entities. And it's usually around some timely topic that they're interested in creating policy on, or amending policy on or something like that. And so that's one of our pillars is this big report. Another one is we have as I mentioned earlier, we have a Science Policy Fellowship as well. And so currently we place 15 Fellows in the government in the state government a year. Five of those fellows than the executive branch currently and tenor and the state legislature. So much like my experience as a policy fellow in Washington DC. This is also professional development experience for our fellows. While at the same time providing a really useful service to the state government as well in terms of bringing their expertise, that critical thinking, just a perspective as a scientist or engineer to these challenges that face California and all Californians. I think it's also worth noting that the policy fellowship, much like me, like my, my fellowship for me, was a stepping stone into a career outside of academia, into a different public service sector. Lot of our CCST science policy fellows also work in some public service or science policy realm outside of academia as well. Most of them go on to either continue for it, to work for the state or maybe for NGOs, advocacy groups, or other science policy-related careers and sectors. Then the third thing that CCST does, it does a lot, but the third thing I want to talk about was extra briefings. And so I talked about the reports of a minute ago and the reports often are like a year-long or more. Sometimes we need information a little more quickly than that. We have these expert briefings where science officers such as myself are using really working to grow our network of experts. So I think even later today we have a call with someone that works at one of the UCs just to learn about the research, what are they doing? How much that impacts some policy? Just really think about who those experts, are and have that belt built network of experts so that if we get a request on a technical topic from a policymaker, we can quickly turn around and Put a panel of three or four people together that are experts on different aspects of one topic. And they can share the information in what's, now it's a webinar, but we used to do these, do them as briefing, briefings at the capital. But we can turn on and do that. And so as a science officer with CCST, I do a lot of that work. I do a lot of that outreach and networking to grow our network. We do the planning and thinking. What is what is, what are the briefings that would be helpful? Do we have specific requests? What are topics that are coming up that we need more information on? How do we plan those briefings. We actually do the project management of pulling those briefings off. And I had to recommend anyone who is listening if they're interested in what those look like. We have them all recorded and posted on our website. Please go take a look at them. We just had one last week, I think it was two weeks ago on microgrids. And what those are, those are an interesting one. We have more in the pipeline throughout the year. So take a look at those. If there's any topics that are interesting, we have all the information there. That's what I do for the most part. A lot of thinking about what are the, what are the topics on the horizon or what are requests we have that are important for us to do. Who's in our network group and who can we grow our network to, in order to have the expertise to answer those questions. 

     

    Kevin Karami: That sounds really, really great and thank you for sharing. I know CCST does some really important work. So it's great to speak with different individuals because you’re the second guest from CCST we've had now, hopefully we can have some more in the future. It's really great to hear that this work is being done at the state level because it's really important to a lot of Californians specifically as well. So thank you, Dr. Bixenmann, for joining us today on the podcast. It was an honor to have you on.

     

    Dr. Ryan Bixenmann: It was great to be here. Thank you so much for setting this up and I'm happy to share their advice and hopefully people find it useful. 

     

    This Podcast is a production of the UC Riverside School of Public Policy. Our theme music was produced by C Codaine. I'm Kevin Karami. Till next time.