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Thu, Apr 27

Students In The DukeEngage In DC Program Explore Where Science Fits In Policy

Priorities continue to shift for science at the federal level – including funding cuts, controversial appointments, and changes in leadership. As the new program director of DukeEngage in Washington program, I am excited to engage undergraduate students at the intersection of science and public policy

On March 22, 40,000 people participated in the March for Science in Washington DC, and thousands more participated in sister marches throughout the world, including in Antarctica and at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

The next four years present an unprecedented learning opportunity for students, both in understanding the political influence on science and policy, and assessing the strength of the institutions to support scientific research and endeavor. In addition, we are likely to see changes in the strategy of organizations that utilize science to buttress their policy aimss.


At Science & Society, I am in the midst of taking over the enormity of the work of DukeEngage in Washington’s previous project director, Bob Cook-Deegan, now affiliated with Arizona State University.

The previous iteration of the program focused primarily on genome policy; this summer’s program will span conservation, energy, health, and social policy. Through diverse internship programs, our students will be able to better understand how science plays a role in policy making – whether in the federal government, industry, or local and state government.

Students will explore where science fits in the policy process; how policy makers find out about the science related to important issues; whether scientific innovation is ignored or undiscovered; how institutions changing their strategies to work with the new structure in Washington; and what informs the choices of our policy makers.


I am fascinated with the influence of science on policy and vice versa. I hope to bring that passion to DukeEngage students this summer. Engaging these students in the science policy discourse in the nation’s capital will push them to think broadly; to question the ethics and decision-making in science and policy; and will inform their learning experiences and those of their classmates when they return to Duke in the fall.

Learn more about DukeEngage.

thomas-williamsThomas Williams is a faculty member of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society’s Master in Bioethics and Science Policy and a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School.