Former ASME Congressional Fellow Bhushan Encourages Engineers to Engage in the Policy-Making Process
Jan 14, 2015
Applications are being accepted through the end of January for the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program, which offers selected ASME members the opportunity to spend a year in Washington, D.C., providing technical advice to policymakers in Congress and other federal agencies. Bharat Bhushan, PhD, PE, who completed his yearlong Fellowship last August, describes his term on Capitol Hill as extremely rewarding and encourages other ASME members to contribute their much-needed knowledge and experience through the Federal Fellows program.
Dr. Bhushan, who served on the Republican staff of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SST) in the U.S. House of Representatives, was one of two ASME members who served as 2013-2014 ASME Federal Government Fellows. The other ASME Congressional Fellow for that term, Mahantesh Hiremath, PhD, served on the staff of the SST’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee in analyzing energy and environmental issues. (Dr. Hiremath discussed his Fellowship in a recent ASME News article, which can be read here.)
Bhushan, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and Howard D. Winbigler Professor and director of the Nanoprobe Laboratory for Bio- and Nanotechnology and Biomimetics at the Ohio State University, spent his year on Capitol Hill preparing science legislation and arranging hearings for the SST’s Subcommittee on Research and Technology. The subcommittee is responsible for the reauthorization and management of programs related to the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, as well as the 21st Century Nanotoechnology R&D Act, STEM and Technology Transfer.
Bhushan’s duties as a Congressional Fellow included selecting witnesses and preparing questions for subcommittee hearings, preparing op-ed pieces, drafting memos, preparing research overviews regarding various technologies, and attending regional meetings of the National Academies and numerous hearings and briefings in the nation’s capital and in other locations.
During his year as an ASME Congressional Fellow, Bhushan was struck by the genuine need for technical engineering and scientific guidance on Capitol Hill, where fewer than five percent of the members of Congress charged with making decisions on bills involving technical components are actually engineers or scientists. According to the report Bhushan submitted at the end of his Fellowship, only 12 House and Senate members in the 113th Congress had engineering degrees, while a mere five to 10 percent of the Congressional staff who prepare the legislation typically possess physical science or engineering degrees. This is a scenario Bhushan would like to help change.
“I would like to see the engineers and scientists we train also have some background in science public policy, so that when they graduate, they will choose to work in Washington as a regular staff member,” Bhushan said. “The vast majority of Congressional staff who write legislation — and there are 14,000 of them on the Hill — have a degree in public policy or political science, but only a few have a background in engineering and science. So, what I’m hoping is that people really do become professional staff members and more of them run for elected offices.”
Bhushan and Ohio State are doing their part to prepare their engineering students for the public policy arena. Last month, the university approved a new minor program in engineering and public policy. Bhushan is currently teaching a joint course in science policy at the university’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs, where he is in the process of being named an affiliated faculty member. Meanwhile, Bhushan is actively seeking another fellowship opportunity — this time with the executive branch government — with the full support of the university’s College of Engineering. “My university is very interested that I remain engaged,” he explained. “They see it as very beneficial to them to have this Washington connection. They also want to bring this recognition of public policy to engineers.
“My job is to be champion for science policy,” Bhushan continued. “I’d like to see more engineers get interested in it and participate in policy making rather than leaving it to people who have no background and appreciation for engineering, science and technology.”
ASME is accepting applications through Jan. 31, 2015 for two 2015-2016 Federal Fellowship opportunities: the ASME Congressional Fellowship and the ASME Foundation Swanson Fellowship on Advanced Manufacturing. To learn more about ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program, or to apply for one of the 2015-2016 Fellowships, visit https://www.asme.org/about-asme/get-involved/advocacy-government-relations/federal-fellows-program.
For the latest news, regulations and announcements on the priorities outlined in ASME’s Public Policy Agenda and how you can become engaged in ASME Government Relations, please visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/.