July 2001

Shaping Science Policy — International, National and Regional

Symposium on Women in Science

Discovering How Taxol Works

The Mind of a Child

Changing Course to a Career in Medicine

Working at the Nexus of Law and Science

New Factors in the Chemistry Equation

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Bryn Mawr College
A quarterly newsletter on research, teaching, management, policy making and leadership in Science and Technology

Shaping Science Policy — International, National and Regional
By Barbara Spector

A liberal arts education teaches undergraduates to think critically, articulate well and analyze complex issues. So it’s no surprise that Bryn Mawr alumnae with an interest in research have entered the science and technology policy arena. Here’s a look at the careers of five graduates whose work has helped shape S&T policy on the international, national and regional levels.

Promoting International Accord

Tamae Maeda Wong ’84

Tamae Maeda Wong ’84 is program director in the Division for International Organizations and Academy Cooperation at the National Research Council (NRC), the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. She manages U.S. participation in international unions representing astronomy, chemistry, crystallography, mathematics, optics, physics and radio science. The unions facilitate global collaboration — for example, by negotiating universal standards and fostering worldwide interactions for scientific progress. The United States participates in the unions via national committees, which Wong manages.

"You want scientists in any discipline to be able to freely interact," she explains. In the realm of scientific inquiry, "national boundaries make no sense." On the other hand, governments have security concerns, which often lead to the establishment of laws and regulations that impede the ability of researchers — and their work — to cross international borders.

Because of concerns about scientific espionage at the Department of Energy, for example, it can take weeks for a researcher from a sensitive country such as India — which has recently become a nuclear-weapons power — to obtain clearance to attend a conference at a national laboratory.

Wong’s responsibilities include ensuring that news about the U.S. committees’ activities is disseminated to scientists at the grass roots. To ensure free information flow, her office interacts with U.S. professional societies on matters related to international activities. It also addresses major issues such as chemical-weapons treaties to ensure that a review of such international accords is grounded in good science.

Wong, who earned her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, began her career at NRC in 1992 as a staff officer in the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology. She is the former editor of the Association for Women in Science’s magazine.

She relishes her role in building the infrastructure that enables science to progress. "Some people may call it ‘bureaucracy,’ but the system needs to be in place in order for U.S. science to work at an international level," she says.

Capitol Hill and the Private Sector

Gemma Flamberg ’85 is a legislative analyst in the Office of Legislative Policy and Analysis (OLPA) within the Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health. "Even where NIH is not in a regulatory role, the private sector looks to NIH for guidance on key policy issues," she notes.

OLPA’s mission is "to facilitate and enhance the relationship between NIH and the Congress; advance NIH legislative priorities; and ensure that the NIH community receives essential information, advice and guidance regarding developments in the Congress that affect NIH," explains Flamberg, who focuses on bioethics and technology transfer issues.

Flamberg attends congressional hearings and analyzes newly introduced legislation to determine how it might affect the agency. "We frequently provide technical assistance to congressional staffers as the legislation is modified," she says. "I typically respond to several inquiries a day from congressional staffers. These run the gamut from simple questions — such as, ‘What is NIH’s budget for diabetes research?’ — to more complex questions that might require me to explain the legal parameters for conducting human embryo research and fetal tissue research."

Flamberg earned a law degree from American University and worked for the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Health and Human Services before joining NIH. "We are at a point where our scientific ability has outpaced our ability as a society to grapple with difficult moral and ethical issues," she says. "We may be able scientifically to clone a human being, but we can’t figure out whether we want to, or ought to. The way this dilemma plays out on Capitol Hill is fascinating, and extremely exciting."

White House Senior Adviser

Lori Perine ’80

Lori Perine ’80 served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from February 1997 until the Bush administration was installed, rising to the position of deputy associate director of technology. Today, she’s president and CEO of Interpretech LLC, a consulting group that focuses on advancing innovation.

At OSTP, Perine was a senior adviser on technology issues and oversaw national policy and research initiatives in information technology, nanotechnology, transportation and energy. She helped gain support for federal R&D initiatives in industry, academia and Congress and worked closely with the President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee and the President’s Committee of Advisers on Science and Technology.

Translating R&D developments into national priorities often involved explaining emerging technologies and their impact on citizens’ lives. "One of the problems of science and technology policy today is that it’s very difficult for the scientific community to get the rest of the world to understand what it’s talking about and why it’s important," she says. Her position required an understanding of the total science and technology enterprise — "from R&D to commercialization," she notes. "You have to be aware of the entire context, and you have to be able to talk to a lot of people."

President Clinton’s speeches incorporated some of her writings. "Those had to be very simple and very clear, yet make a strong point," she recalls.

Perine previously was senior policy adviser for technology to the Secretary of Commerce and a senior economist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Before her government service, she worked at the World Bank, where she focused on energy policy.

Educating the S&T Educators

Senta Raizen M.A. ’45

Senta Raizen, MA ’45, is the director of the National Center for Improving Science Education, which promotes change in policies and practices for science, mathematics and technology education. It aims to bridge the gaps among research, policy and practice in curriculum development, teaching and learning, and assessment.

"Policy isn’t just an application of research; it’s influenced by people’s values," Raizen says. As an example, she cites the use of student test scores to assess teacher accountability. Tests are only one way to measure students’ capabilities. They don’t assess students’ motivation to continue their studies, their in-depth knowledge or their ability to do sustained work or apply their knowledge to unfamiliar situations. Assessment of such additional factors is "complicated and costly" and therefore not a priority of policymakers, she notes.

Raizen, a former Sun Oil Co. chemist who’s also certified as a high school chemistry teacher, began her involvement in science education in the 1960s as a National Science Foundation program officer dealing with curriculum improvement.

Currently, she leads an NSF-funded project studying induction and support programs for beginning teachers in five countries. In other nations, new teachers spend less time in the classroom and meet regularly to share their experiences, she notes. In the United States, by contrast, "we tell the new teachers, 'Sink or swim.'" Because seniority determines classroom assignments, new teachers often face situations that impede success.

Raizen is an adviser to several major education studies, including the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). She headed a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and wrote reports dealing with science-education curriculum, teaching and assessment reform as well as numerous books and articles. She’s led major evaluation efforts and national education policy forums.

E-Commerce Policy-Making

Pari Sabety ’77

Pari Sabety ’77 directs the Technology Policy Group (TPG) at the Ohio Supercomputer Center. The group addresses legal and policy challenges arising in a "networked society" supported by pervasive computing devices and electronic commerce.

TPG coordinates E-Com Ohio, a landmark effort to use national benchmarks to measure the readiness of Ohio’s businesses and citizens to adopt e-commerce (www.ecom-ohio.org). TPG’s Privacy Series Conference (www.privacy2000.org), in its third year, is one of the top three privacy conferences in the United States, where business leaders and policymakers discuss new approaches to privacy issues with academics, chief security officers, attorneys and other experts. Sabety notes, "Today, information can be gathered on consumers’ every click and financial transaction on the Internet; we should all be concerned about how it is shared and used. Tomorrow, with the advent of pervasive computing, companies will have the power to collect extremely intimate information on sensory preferences, eye movements, usage patterns and cognition details of human behavior. To protect citizens’ rights, we must redefine the human boundaries of privacy and autonomy."

From 1987 to 1991, Sabety served as economic development policy adviser to former Ohio Gov. Richard Celeste. In the governor’s office, she witnessed first-hand "the transformational power of technology to change an economy — from the way factories operate on the plant floor to the relationships between companies and their suppliers and customers." After Celeste left office in 1991, they founded a consulting firm, Celeste & Sabety, which focused on technology as a driver of economic development in states and regions as diverse as California, Nebraska, Long Island, San Diego, St. Louis, Denver and New Jersey.

Sabety’s e-mail address is sabety@osc.edu.

About the Author

Barbara Spector writes on science and technology as well as business topics. She is the executive editor of Family Business magazine and former editor of The Scientist.

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