I. Mission Statement

The UMass Science Policy & Advocacy Initiative (“SciPol” hereafter) aims to bring awareness, provide guidance, and create opportunities for undergraduate students of all backgrounds and majors interested in the field of science policy and advocacy for evidence-based policy and ethical research through legislation.

A. Purpose of Organization

UMass SciPol aims to expose students of all disciplines to the world of science policy and advocacy, empower students to engage in real-world issues at the intersection of science, society, and policy, and enable students to experience the science policy process in practice. We also aim to provide resources, mentoring, and support for students interested in science policy and/or advocacy efforts and integrating these skills into their careers.

B. Activities, Projects, and Events

UMass SciPol will undertake a breadth of activities that both introduce non-scientists to the important role of science policy in society and open opportunities for aspiring scientists and researchers to be formally exposed to the state of science policy today and how policies related to or supported by scientific research and funding are developed across different governmental structures. Through these activities, SciPol also aims to foster scientific thinking and a data-based approach to policy making.

These activities include, but are not limited to:

  1. Hosting guided weekly discussion groups around a selected article or reading regarding a particular thematic issue, i.e. the use of deep learning in businesses to gain personal consumer data.
  2. Conducting workshops (Led by students, faculty members, and guests outside UMass Amherst) to develop skills that are critical for effective engagement in science policy and advocacy, including but not limited to:
    • Effective written communication for scientists, policymakers, and a general audience
    • Effective social media use for advocacy and policy efforts
    • Public speaking
    • Constructive discussion/debate
    • Networking
    • Research ethics
    • Critical analysis
    • A multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving
  3. Inviting speakers to give topical presentations on a specific interest area related to their research expertise, which impacts science policy in some manner.
  4. Participating in regional/national meetings and workshops on science policy that allow us to be directly connected and engaged with the policy-making process.
  5. Collaborating with established peer organizations at other universities around the country through virtual meetings, meeting up at conferences, and sharing of activity ideas (e.g. UCLA SciPol).
  6. Potential activities may expand to include other endeavors as SciPol grows to meet its strategic plan.

C. Organization Philosophy

Science and engineering research is at a crossroads today: we have reached a point where advancements in science and technology outpace society’s ability to evaluate and regulate the ethical use and impact of these innovations before they are implemented en masse. Furthermore, involvement in science advocacy for evidence-based policymaking making typically begins at the graduate school level and above. We believe that exposure to and experience in the field of science policy and advocacy starting at the undergraduate level will better prepare individuals to lead these efforts as graduate students or early-career scientists, and foster the development of more socially-engaged researchers.

Five-Year Goals

  • a. SciPol intends to work with interested members and their respective departments to financially enable us to support a small cohort of students each year to attend the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop in March in Washington, D.C.
  • b. SciPol will engage with local and regional communities through initiatives intended to inform the general public about specific scientific issues and their role in policymaking through public lectures, workshops, and other events. These may be hosted by SciPol, and may also be led by invited speakers and policymakers.
  • c. SciPol aims to eventually have regular dialogue with state and local representatives by maintaining connections with their offices.
  • d. SciPol intends to grow its membership to include as diverse a representation of majors at UMass as possible, in particular emphasizing non-STEM majors who may bring unique perspectives from the humanities around which our work is centered. We leave open the possibility of including undergraduates from the Five Colleges to participate in the activities of SciPol.
  • e. SciPol will function under the support and partnership of multiple faculty across multiple departments at UMass, who will provide members with professional links to access resources related to science policy and external opportunities including internships. We anticipate building strong connections with the College of Natural Sciences and departments within, as well as with the College of Engineering, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, as well as potentially other colleges. We hope to specifically connect with these departments to gain insight from faculty members, discuss possible funding opportunities for travel to workshops, and public relations support. In return, we hope to inspire both students and faculty to become more engaged in and cognisant of the political and social relevance of research.

II. Membership Guidelines and Becoming a Member

  • A. Any undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst of any major and background is eligible for Membership as a Full Member in SciPol.
  • B. Interested students (and previously inactive members) may become an Active or Full Member of SciPol by attending at least one general body meeting and making their presence known by signing in. Membership status begins after the end of the first meeting attended. This first meeting is counted toward the total meetings attended for the semester.
  • C. Full Member status must be kept active by attending at least 1/2 of the total meetings of the semester. Those who do not meet this threshold will forfeit active member status, and lose eligibility to vote at general body meetings.

III. Meeting Guidelines

  • A. The general body of members and the Officers of SciPol will meet together at least once per week, between Mondays and Fridays. As such, we expect to hold between 10-12 general body meetings per semester.
    1. Meeting times will be determined by the Officers, based on the most convenient times for members of the general body.
    2. Notifications or reminders of meetings are to be sent at least one day in advance of the meeting by the Secretary.
    3. Meeting agendas will include, but are not limited to:
      • Updates on SciPol events and initiatives, general science policy news, announcements about different events, goals, or presentations.
      • Possible presentations by students or faculty members.
      • Workshops as mentioned above to develop a “science policy toolkit” such as writing policy briefs, debating, and public speaking
      • Discussion groups on specific topics, as voted on by the general body, to be discussed and moderated by a member of the Executive Board.
      • Discussions/proposals for specific policies to affect different scientific/political issues, as well as time to write policies and policy briefs, and preparation for conferences.
      • Team Building activities and communication exercises
      • Video conferencing and Skype sessions with peer organizations at external universities or hosting virtual panels with experts in the field.
  • Decision-making at General Body Meetings
    1. Decisions regarding the direction of the organization, the events that we hold, and the activities that we carry out must be made by consensus with the general body of members. Decisions may not be made unilaterally.
    2. The majority of Officers present have the responsibility to determine if a decision to be made merits a vote by the general body.
      • Situations which merit a vote include, but are not limited to:
        1. When there are clear disagreements amongst members over how to proceed over an issue.
        2. Who should be involved in specific endeavors or roles in situations where there is limited capacity.
      • Votes for a decision are made by a 2/3 majority vote by the general body members who are present at the meeting.
    3. Determining participation in capacity-limited activities
      • There may be instances where only a limited number of individuals may be able to undertake certain activities, such as attending certain conferences or workshops.
      • Each member who may be interested in participating in such activities should express interest to the Officers during a general body meeting or by directly emailing the Officers.
      • Participants for such activities will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. The Officers will document and hold the first-come, first-served system accountable.
      • The proposer of such an event will be “first” in this first-come, first-served system, and thus they will have the right to participate.
    4. The Officers may have Executive meetings open to the general body on an as-needed basis to discuss topics included but not limited to preparing for upcoming meetings and events, the direction of the SciPol, and communication with outside parties. As such, these meetings need not occur on a weekly basis. These meetings will be called by a simple majority vote of the Officers.
    5. Minutes for all meetings will be documented by the Secretary, or another member of the Officers who volunteers if the Secretary is not present.
    6. All General Body and Executive meetings will be chaired by the Co-Directors on a rotational basis. The Secretary may also be asked to chair meetings.

IV. Executive and Leadership Positions

  • A. There are five designated executive (“Officer”) positions in SciPol. Each of these Officer positions are complementary and there is no imposed hierarchy of leadership. Decisions made by Co-Directors, for instance, can be challenged by any sitting Officer.
    1. Two Co-Directors
    2. One Secretary
    3. One Treasurer
    4. One Communications Chair
  • Description of position responsbilities
    1. Co-Director
      • a) Oversees the direction and guides the priorities of SciPol. Co-Directors are expected to work cohesively together to develop a strategic plan for SciPol on an annual basis and develop five-year strategic plans.
      • b) Primarily responsible for establishing and maintaining contacts with external experts and faculty members.
      • c) The two Co-Directors will hold the official signature responsibility for SciPol.
    2. Secretary
      • a) Works closely with Co-Directors to organize meetings, record and maintain records of meetings including but not limited to writing accurate and detailed meeting minutes after each meeting of the general body and of the Officers.
      • b) Responsible for maintaining an accurate and current roster of active members.
      • c) Responsible for sending meeting reminders and notifications.
      • d) Responsible for maintaining the RSO Campus Pulse page.
    3. Treasurer
      • a) Works closely with Co-Directors to oversee financial health and stability of SciPol.
      • b) Responsible for keeping accurate account records of organization finances including creating financial reports as needed.
      • c) Draft financial proposals and apply for funding through SGA and other organizations with support from the Co-Directors.
    4. Communications Chair
      • a) Responsible for the public and university relations of SciPol. Updates and maintains our website and social media pages with our latest events and activities.
      • b) Handles communications with external parties and marketing campaigns for recruitment and/or fundraising.
  • C. Acting positions
    1. Should there be not enough candidates to fill these leadership positions, the current or incoming Officers may need to diversify their roles temporarily by assuming “Acting” positions of responsibility.
    2. One of the Co-Directors may assume the role of Acting Secretary, Acting Treasurer, or Acting Communications Chair in time intervals where there are unanticipated vacancies for these positions.
    3. The sitting Officers must determine a date for a Special Election to occur to fill these positions during the current semester.
  • D. Creating ad hoc positions
    1. Temporary leadership positions may be deemed necessary by the Officers based on events or other needs of the organization.
    2. These positions may include titles such as Coordinator for task-specific agenda items and executables.
    3. Temporary leadership positions are created and appointed by the consensus of the Officers.
    4. Any ad hoc positions will only exist for as long as the relevant task or event is active. Officers will determine the length of any of these temporary positions.
  • E. Term of office
    1. Elected members may only serve for one full academic year. This includes the fall and spring semesters.
    2. 2.Officers who wish to continue serving in a leadership capacity must formally run again and be re-elected.

V. Election of Leadership Guidelines

  • A. Maintenance of Records
    1. All election records are to be kept in a shared UMass Google Drive folder amongst the sitting Officers, and maintained by the sitting Secretary.
    2. Access to records must be kept open to all inquiring members and auditors.
    3. A backup to all records must be made once a semester by the Secretary and kept in a local electronic hard drive on each Officer’s computer.
  • B. Election of Officers are to be held once every Spring Semester. They will be held during the Spring Semester.
    1. Exact timeline of elections will vary from year to year, but must occur prior to April 1, in accordance to SGA guidelines.
      • a) Elections must be held on a regularly scheduled general body meeting. The meeting in which an election will occur will be widely announced and communicated well in advance.
      • b) The meeting in which an election will occur must have at least 2/3 of all current, active members in attendance; otherwise, the election may not proceed and must be rescheduled.
      • c) Voting will occur anonymously via a Google Form circulated to the general body. Each voter must log-in in order to vote to ensure that each voter votes only once, but the identity of the voter will be hidden (no collection of email addresses or names).
      • d) Successful candidates are selected by simple majority vote, i.e. the candidate with more votes will earn that position.
    2. Newly elected Officers assume their respective roles officially on the last day of classes of the Spring Semester and hold their positions until the next year after the outcome of the next election cycle is determined.
    3. Newly elected Officers must work with outgoing Officers prior to assuming their positions to ensure smooth transition of responsibilities, including reviewing the Constitution, Strategic Plan, and relevant documentation for leadership.
  • C. Any current, active member of SciPol may participate in the election of the leadership (“Officers”). Visitors and non-members may not participate in the election process.
  • D. Any current, active member of SciPol is eligible to be considered for candidacy to be elected as an Officer.
    1. Prospective candidates must indicate their intent to run for a certain position at least one week prior to the announced date of elections.
    2. Intent to run is indicated by communicating their intent with one of the sitting Officers.
    3. Candidates for election may only be considered for one position in an election cycle.
  • E. Special elections for vacant or vacated positions
    1. A special election may be held at any point during the semester in the event where an Officer relinquishes their position and responsibilities or if a position was not filled in an earlier election. A special election is to be held during a regularly scheduled meeting time.
    2. The procedures for a special election is identical to that of a general membership election, requiring 2/3 of active RSO members in SciPol to be in attendance and voting.
    3. Notification of a special election must be communicated by the Secretary or acting Secretary one week in advance of the special election meeting.
    4. The outcome of a Special Election takes effect immediately. The elected individual assumes the position they were elected for immediately following the conclusion of the election process.
  • F. Conflict Resolution and Removal of Officers or Members
    1. There may be circumstances where an Officer or Member may need to be removed from SciPol. Concerns about the removal of an Officer or Member should be presented in confidence to one of the sitting Officers (who is not the Officer in question, if an Officer is the subject of concern).
      • a) These concerns can be communicated in person, via email, or anonymously. Our website will have the functionality to leave anonymous feedback about our organization.
      • b) The Officer with whom the concerns were shared must approach the Officer or Member in question regarding these concerns.
      • c) The Officer or Member in question may choose to address these concerns directly with the concerned party or the Officer who presented these concerns to them who may then relay the response to the concerned party.
      • d) If the issue is not fully resolved, the Officer or Member in question will be offered an opportunity by the (other) Officers to address the membership at the subsequent general body meeting.
      • e) If concerns persist, a member may propose to one of the Officers for the removal of the Officer or Member for either their leadership position or their membership.
    2. Any proposal to remove an Officer or Member must be first discussed amongst the sitting Officers. The goal of these discussions is to find an actionable plan or solution that addresses the relevant issue. If the individual being considered for removal is an Officer, this Officer may not participate in these discussions. If a concern is raised about a certain Member or Officer, they must be notified in a timely manner through either email or in person communication from an Officer.
      • a) After initial discussion amongst Officers, one of the Officers must reach out to the concerned party and discuss with them the outcome of these discussions.
      • b) If the concerned party is comfortable and if the party in question is also comfortable, they may individually or jointly approach the Officers to make their cases.
      • c) If the concerned party is not satisfied with the proposed solution, they may propose to hold a general membership vote for the removal of the Officer or Member.
    3. Voting for Removal of Officer or Member
      • a) To maintain stability of leadership and membership, voting for removal of Officers or Members may only occur as a last resort.
      • b) As aforementioned for elections, 2/3 of the general body must be in attendance for a vote to take place.
      • c) A 2/3 majority final vote by the general body of members in favor of the removal of the Officer or member in question is required for the removal of the Officer or member.
        1. The Officer or member being considered for removal may not participate in this approval vote. They also may not be present during this meeting.
        2. Only current, active members of SciPol may participate in this approval vote.
        3. The outcome of this vote will be communicated to the Officer or member in question, following the conclusion of the meeting.
      • d) If an Officer or member is voted for removal, this is taken as an indication that the general membership recommends the removal of this individual. Removal is effective one week after such a vote in order for a transition period to take place in case the removed person is in an Officer position.
      • e) Removed Officers remain members of SciPol. Removed members are no longer members of SciPol.
        1. Removed members may appeal to be reinstated by writing to the Officers within one week of a removal vote, stating the reasons why they would like to be reinstated.
        2. Officers who are removed from their positions cannot be reinstated. They will need to run again in the next election.
        3. To remove an Officer from being a member of SciPol, this removal process must be repeated.

VI. Statement of Free Speech and Expression

  • A. Under no circumstances shall a member’s freedom of speech or expression be infringed.
  • B. SciPol is firmly committed to the principles of academic freedom and the constitutionally protected right of freedom of speech.

VII. Statement of Non-Discrimination

  • UMass SciPol and its Members prohibits discrimination under Federal and State law, based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, family/parental status, income derived from a public assistance program, political beliefs, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any of its activities or operations.

VIII. Amendments to the Constitution

  • A. Amendments to the Constitution may be proposed by any active member of SciPol at any time during the academic semester.
    1. Any member may propose amendments by communicating any changes they wish to see with one of the Officers.
    2. The Officers will hold a meeting only amongst themselves to discuss whether the amendment should be considered. An amendment will be deemed worthy of consideration if a simple majority of Officers agree. If the amendment is deemed necessary by the Officers, it will be presented to the general body of members for a simple majority vote. As with elections and the removal of Officers/Members, 2/3 of the general body must be present for this vote to take place.
    3. If the simple majority of the general membership support the amendment, the statement of the amendment will be passed by the Officers to the SGA Secretary of the Registry for approval.
  • B. The Officers reserve the right to modify the text of the amendment to better fit the overall goals of SciPol before bringing the amendment for voting by the general membership.
  • C. Proposed amendments to the Constitution made by general body members will only be considered by the Officers once a semester. General body members may bring suggestions for amendments by speaking with the Officers at any point during the semester.