New Voices (NV): What do you do, and why is it important?
Amit: I am a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). I am working on the development and implementation of a strategy to combat global hunger and food security. Part of my job involves communicating technical information to non-technical audiences, keeping them informed and engaged in our activities. Another part of my job is connecting research programs to country programs that may benefit from the research. More broadly, my work supports a coordinated effort across the U.S. government to sustainably reduce global poverty and hunger.
NV: What’s the most exciting part of what you do? Any particularly interesting stories?
Amit: The most exciting part of my job is getting to see the impact of our agency’s work through the real people who are impacted by it. In September 2010, I traveled to Uganda for a few weeks and provided the local government feedback on its plan to strengthen the agriculture sector and reduce hunger. I met inspirational government leaders, researchers, and farmers who all shared the goal of lifting millions of Ugandans out of poverty.
NV: What is the biggest policy issue affecting your work? Describe how you’ve dealt with it, or even advocated regarding that issue.
Amit: One of the important challenges I face is working across multiple sectors, such as food security and climate change. These two sectors are closely linked and should be addressed comprehensively for the greatest impact. At USAID, I helped create a Strategic Integration Working Group, which brings together various sectors so they can share best practices. The group has developed recommendations for USAID that can improve our work across multiple sectors.
NV: How might the public misinterpret your work? Is there anything you want to clear up?
Amit: There is a misconception that U.S. investments abroad don’t have an impact on Americans. In fact, investments in foreign assistance have a far-reaching impact that affects our own economic security and national security. Our investments in foreign assistance build allies, strengthen trade partnerships, and create opportunities for American innovators and entrepreneurs.
NV: What’s your advice for someone in science who wants to get involved in policy, advocacy or outreach?
Amit: My advice for someone interested in science policy is to strengthen your communication skills and practice communicating with different audiences, and for different purposes. Good communication skills are an incredible asset in science policy and will make you a more effective advocate or policy-maker. Also, I recommend learning the federal budgeting process because it is extremely helpful to understand, no matter where you work in the science policy world. Finally, I would encourage you to always promote the use of science-based decision-making in the policy area.