Policy, Research, Outreach: Environment, Food & Biosecurity
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AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow

As an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow, I moved to Washington, DC, in August 2016 to spend a year at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I’m hosted by EPA’s National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC, part of EPA’s Office of Research & Development), where I conduct program analysis as a social scientist.

My primary project concerns NHSRC’s rapid radiochemical analytical methods program. NHSRC is developing rapid methods in collaboration with EPA’s National Analytical Radiation Environmental Lab. These methods have more rapid laboratory turnaround time than do methods traditionally available. The rapid methods would analyze samples taken of soil, water, building materials, and other matrices during certain phases of a radiological emergency. The program’s objective is to advance EPA’s capabilities to respond to wide area contamination incidents.

I am assessing the program’s progress toward achieving this objective, with a particular focus on the coordination and communication needed between federal, state, and other offices to ensure that the rapid methods would be used in an incident. I am interviewing these stakeholders, assessing the methods’ utility from their perspectives, and identifying potential bottlenecks in the methods’ adoption.

Among other things, the analysis gives me the opportunity to disentangle the complicated chain of interests through which scientific knowledge is deployed to serve the public—or rather, the many constituencies that compose “the public.”