Q: What are the benefits of being a fellow?

As a coveted asset in the federal government, fellows gain hands-on policy experience in a challenging environment. Current and alumni fellows form a highly respected and widely recognized network of policy-savvy scientists and engineers. Click here for other benefits of being a fellow.

Q: What impact have fellowships had on the career paths of alumni?

In the year immediately following their fellowship, approximately 40-50% of fellows continue working in the policy realm (not necessarily in federal government); 20-25% return to the sector in which they worked previously; and 20-25% use the experience as a stepping stone to a new opportunity.

Q: What is the AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship applicant acceptance rate?

The ratio of applicants to fellowships awarded is different in each of the fellowship program areas. We urge you not to consider "the odds," but to apply to the areas that fit best with your interests and scientific/technical expertise. It is in those areas that you will be most competitive. STPF awards more than 130 first year fellowships annually. In addition, approximately 30 congressional and 10 executive branch fellowships are selected and awarded by our science and engineering partner societies.

Q: If awarded a fellowship, how do I prepare for the experience?

In early September, STPF hosts a mandatory two-week orientation program in the Washington, D.C.-area on the workings of the federal government that provides exposure to some of the issues, institutions, and individuals involved in federal policymaking. Barring September 1st falling on a weekend or holiday, orientation will begin on September 1st. Prior to orientation, we provide a variety of resources to help fellows prepare for their year in Washington, D.C.

Q: How long is a fellowship?

The fellowship is a 12-month learning experience beginning on September 1 and ending on August 31. Some fellows, especially those at the National Institutes of Health, are brought on by the host agency as temporary federal employees and should expect to be entered on duty mid-August. Individuals accepting a fellowship must sign an agreement acknowledging this yearlong commitment. Some executive branch fellowships may be renewed for a second year at the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and STPF.

Q: Are fellowships available every year?

Yes. The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowships have been operating annually since 1973. The number and size of the fellowship program areas has changed over the years and continues to evolve.

Q: Where are fellowships located?

All AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship are based in the Washington, D.C. area.

Q: Who funds the fellowships?

Most executive branch fellowships are funded by the agencies and offices where fellows are placed. Because these placements are funded through different mechanisms, benefits, pay, and hiring type can differ among fellows and depends on where they are placed. Learn more about funding mechanisms for executive branch placements here: STPF Funding Mechanisms Chart

Congressional fellowships are funded by science and engineering partner societies that have their own recruitment and selection process.

Q: Would I be an employee of AAAS as an STPF fellow?

No. AAAS administers the STPF program but does not employ any fellows. The STPF program operates under multiple funding agreements and fellows are employed by different organizations. Your placement will determine your employer relationship. Click here to view a chart that summarizes the funding mechanisms that support fellows during their placements: STPF Funding Mechanisms Chart.

Q: Is a security clearance required?

Depending upon the agencies that you are interested in, you may need a security clearance before your fellowship assignment commences and before your stipend starts. Sometimes, gaining clearance can take a lot of time. Some agencies allow fellows to delay their fellowship start date to account for the time spent waiting for clearance, while others require fellows to obtain clearance by September 1 (the regular start date for most fellows) or their fellowship offer will be rescinded. While STPF staff are available to offer guidance on the clearance process, they are not involved in processing or approving clearances. Fellows are responsible for submitting information and for following up with appropriate parties to ensure that their security clearance is obtained. STPF cannot defer or move an individual to a different placement if they encounter a delay or are denied a clearance; the individual would need to go through the entire application process again in another year.

Q: May I opt for a shorter fellowship?

No. The AAAS S&T Policy Fellowship is available only as a 12-month commitment in the first year of an assignment. Second year assignments may be for shorter durations at the mutual agreement of the host office, the fellow, and STPF.

Q: Am I eligible for family or medical leave as a fellow?

It depends on your employment status. Second-year fellows might be eligible if the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is available to them via their placement mechanism and they remain in their placement for their second year. Paid leave options might also be available to fellows depending on their placement and stipend mechanism.

Q: If I take a leave of absence (e.g., family leave), will the time I was on leave be added back to my fellowship year?

No, we cannot extend fellowships to account for paid or unpaid time taken. The reason for this is that the funding for placements is granted from year to year and do not allow for extensions.

Q: I’m a faculty member. As a fellow, could I continue doing things such as advising my graduate students?

This depends on your fellowship placement office, fellowship employer, and your home institution. In the past, fellows have been able to make arrangements with their home institutions so that they are able to go on leave and do not need to give up their positions. In many cases, fellows have been able to continue advising students outside of the fellowship’s 40-hour work week. These types of activities generally fall under the realm of ethics policies. More information on the ethics policy for the STPF program can be found here: https://www.aaas.org/programs/science-technology-policy-fellowships/become-fellow-policy-ethics.

Q: During the fellowship, are fellows allowed to continue to work on grants, research projects, etc. with their home institution, or apply for future grants?

In most cases, fellows will need to wrap-up or transfer work on existing grants, research papers, etc. before the start of their fellowships. If any external work needs to be done during the fellowship, the fellow must gain approval from AAAS, their placement office, and employer. A fellow cannot serve as a PI or in any other role for a federally-funded grant while also serving as a fellow as that would be a duplication of federal support, which is not allowed. Also, fellows cannot apply for federal grants while in the program as this would represent a financial conflict of interest as fellowships are federally funded. More information on the ethics policy for the STPF program can be found here: https://www.aaas.org/programs/science-technology-policy-fellowships/become-fellow-policy-ethics.

Q: Do STPF fellows qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program?

Not necessarily. Qualification for PSLF is determined by a variety of factors including the classification of your employer. The fellow will need to determine if their fellowship employer qualifies under PSLF. Fellows of STPF are not employees of AAAS, and thus are not eligible for PSLF on the basis of any employment relationship with AAAS.

Q: In light of COVID-19, are fellows still required to reside in the Washington area during their fellowship?

Yes, all STPF placement opportunities are in the D.C. metro area.

Q: Are placements remote or in-person?

All placements are located in the D.C. metro area. While each host office determines the specifics of a fellow’s work environment – in-person / virtual / hybrid – fellows are expected to spend the majority of their time in an in-person work environment, and in line with current health and safety policies.

Q: Are fellows eligible to apply for any family or medical leave during their fellowship?

Yes, however eligibility will depend on location, the nature of placement organization (government or private) and length of placement leading up to the need for leave and other factors based on local and federal regulations.