A Farewell from the Outgoing John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
Julie Davis American Physical Society (AAS)
On November 2nd, the current John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow, Julie Davis, finished her time at AAS after receiving a permanent job offer from the Government Affairs Office of the American Physical Society (APS). APS is a sibling society to AAS, and there Julie will be advocating for the physical sciences much as she advocated for the astronomical sciences.
After a whirlwind 15 months, it is already time to say goodbye to AAS and take the next step in my science policy career. It has been a great experience, and I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly reflect on my journey and encourage all AAS members to think about how they, too, can get involved in public policy.
It’s hard to believe that I received my astronomy PhD only a year and a half ago! I arrived in Washington, DC, just days after defending and submitting my thesis, only to be thrown into the deep end of science policy work. Suddenly I was sitting in meetings with important astronomers who I had previously only known through their impressive reputations. It felt like “cheating the system” as I, the fledgling PhD, was asked by senior astronomers to give opinions on how we should advocate for billions of dollars to build the next big flagship NASA missions or craft regulations to protect major observatories from harm by commercial satellite constellations.
The learning curve was steep as I absorbed the ins and outs of the federal budget process, the nuances of different government agencies, and how to lead congressional meetings. It was a lot of trial by fire, but with the mentorship of our incredible Deputy Director Bethany Johns and the wonderful experts in our AAS committees, I learned quickly. I am proud to highlight a few of the achievements I was involved in this past year:
- Getting language to authorize NSF research into satellite constellation harm mitigation into the CHIPS and Science Act, and getting it passed into law.
- Briefing a dozen offices and agencies on the risks posed to astronomy by satellite constellations and working with congressional offices to promote regulatory legislation.
- Working with AAS committees and the Board of Trustees to write letters to NASA concerning the naming of JWST.
- Developing strategies to promote the priorities of the astronomy and planetary science decadal surveys and celebrating the launch of JWST.
It’s bittersweet to be reaching the end of my fellowship at AAS, as I will always be an astronomer at heart and am deeply invested in the issues I worked on here. Therefore, I want to leave you all with a call to action. There is always more to be done, and it takes all hands on deck to keep our field thriving. You don’t have to make a career change to science policy to make a difference. AAS is always looking for volunteers willing to talk to their congress members about astronomy, and we are happy to teach you how to do it! For early career folks wanting to dip their toes in policy, you can apply for the Congressional Visits Day program. If you’re thinking about making the switch, the application for the Bahcall Fellowship is now open, too. It’s a wonderful experience and an awesome way to make positive impacts on the field.
I am honored to have served as your public policy fellow and thank the Society for the opportunity to launch into a new, rewarding direction in my career.
Julie Davis, PhD