News You Can Use: FYI Tracks Science Policy and Funding

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Unifying Fields

News You Can Use: FYI Tracks Science Policy and Funding


Rachel Kaufman, Editor

No matter whether you’re working in physics, astronomy, or a different field, if you’re interested in science policy, FYI should be at the top of your reading list.

A service of the American Institute of Physics, FYI publishes news and information on the federal government’s physical science policymaking process. Are you interested in learning about the government’s funding priorities? FYI has a whole series on federal science budgets. The EPA’s stance on climate change? FYI published a piece in December detailing EPA head Scott Pruitt’s questioning of the science behind greenhouse gas regulations. FYI also covers issues that don’t initially seem to be scientific in nature, such as proposed changes to the United States’ visa program. Such changes could affect foreign-born scientists’ ability to work or study in the country.

What you won’t find at FYI are any “alerts” or calls to action. “We take a lot of pride in being a nonpartisan voice in the community,” says Alexis Wolfe, a science policy analyst and writer for FYI. “Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, we want people to be informed.”

The publication is nearing its 30th birthday, having started in 1989 as a mailed newsletter. Now it’s entirely online, as a weekly newsletter, a monthly digest, and 3–4 weekly deep dives, looking at specific and timely topics. A recent deep dive covered the rise of China’s STEM workforce and National Science Board findings showing how the US is at risk of losing its global R&D leadership.

These pieces are, as advertised, deep. “We do our homework and our legwork when we do these analyses,” Wolfe says. Last year, FYI analyst Will Thomas published a story looking into the legislative record of NASA administrator nominee Jim Bridenstine, a sitting congressman in Oklahoma. Thomas found that Bridenstine had introduced a bill that would have rewritten NASA’s main objectives to prioritize space exploration and exploitation while putting scientific research in the background. That report, Wolfe says, was picked up by mainstream publications and this specific bill came up at Bridenstine’s confirmation hearing. (Bridenstine has yet to be confirmed by the full Senate.)

In addition to its news reports, the site also tracks the federal science budget, pertinent legislation going through Congress, and leadership appointments at federal science agencies.

FYI’s readers include scientists within and outside of government, policymakers, and graduate students, though anyone who considers themselves a “science advocate” could be an FYI reader. “It’s so critical for tenured professors to understand the political situation,” Wolfe says. But, “Anything that happens in DC ultimately affects the rest of the country. We do the analysis and legwork for people to understand what’s happening and how it will affect their everyday lives.”

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