Bridging the Gap Between Science and Policy with Mike Holland, PhD

When Science Speaks
When Science Speaks
Bridging the Gap Between Science and Policy with Mike Holland, PhD

Dr. Mike Holland is the Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Research Strategies at the University of Pittsburgh, which supports cross-disciplinary research and coordinates the University’s response to research policy opportunities. He is also responsible for creating major research initiatives and maintaining the University research funding. 

Dr. Holland has previous experience in government including a position as the senior advisor and Staff Director at the Office of the Undersecretary for Science at the United States Department of Energy.

Policymaking is one of the key ways that scientific research and discovery finds its way into the public sphere. It is not always an easy, direct path, and needs the participation of scientists and those with technical training to improve the process. Dr. Mike Holland has a successful career in science policy, working with government, universities, and the Center for Urban Science and Progress.

Dr. Holland earned his PhD in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Prior to that, he earned a BS in Electrical Engineering and Chemistry, both from North Carolina State University. 

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

[2:47] How Dr. Holland found his way into the policy world

[8:54] The story of how Vern Ehlers was the first research physicist to be elected to Congress

[15:22] Dr. Holland’s experience working with Science Outside the Lab

[20:00] The 3 primary roles scientists can play in policymaking

[29:15] How Dr. Holland’s scientific training informs his work in policymaking

[34:01] Dr. Holland’s work with the Schwartzman Scholarship Program

[39:50] What Dr. Holland is working on right now

Connect with Mike Holland, PhD

LinkedIn for Mike Holland, PhD

Bio for Mike Holland, PhD

Science Outside the Lab

The example of Vern Ehlers

The path into policymaking for scientists has not always been an easy one. Vern Ehlers was the first physicist to serve in congress in 1993. As Dr. Holland points out in this week’s episode, this unusual path led many people to want to know how he did it. So how did Vern Ehlers make the jump from being science faculty in a university to serving in the Congress of the United States?

As Dr. Holland talks about, Vern Ehlers wanted to bring his expertise in science to his state representative in Congress, which happened to be Gerald Ford, who later went on to become President of the United States. Becoming a scientific advisor for a future President planted a seed in Dr. Holland that grew into political aspirations. After building relationships in Congress, Vern Ehlers saw that he could make a difference himself, and that led to his eventual time as a US Congressman.

Bringing Science Outside of the Lab

Working in a lab requires focus and dedication, and is important work regardless of which branch of science is being studied. One of the most important aspects of scientific study is the ability to bring what is learned in the lab to the world at large. Policy-making is one avenue that science interfaces with the general public. Scientific training doesn’t always show how this can be accomplished, so what can scientists do to better understand how to bring their work to the world?

Dr. Holland has worked with Science Outside the Lab, which was created to help PhD students in the natural sciences get their work to the public through policymaking. The program outlines potential jobs outside of the labs that PhD graduates can consider getting into to help facilitate scientific policy in the real world. Courses on Science Policy are rare in educational programs, so Science Outside the Lab helps students get a feel of the world outside of laboratory life.

Learn more about Mike Holland, PhD and his work with scientific policy in this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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