A Guide to Writing Assignments in Science and Technology Policy

A Guide to Writing Assignments in Science and Technology Policy

Catherine Woytowicz


Getting Started

Introduction 3
Learning Objectives 3
The “Two Cultures” 4
What is Policy Writing? 6
Choosing a Topic 7


Dossiers 8
Dossiers are used to introduce people. Briefers may pass a dossier to a principal or a briefer might want to read the dossier of a newly assigned principal.

Background Paragraphs 9
These short summaries are used to provide depth to someone new to a topic or to pass current information to a briefer.

Talking Points 14
Whether formal or not, talking points prepare a briefer to speak on an issue. Because they will be said aloud, they should not contain convoluted or difficult language.

Opinion Editorials 20
Opinion editorials convey issues in well-developed narratives that express personal views. However, even powerful people may write them to get ahead of an issue in the media.

Briefing Books 23
Briefing books are used to give principals enough information to attend a summit or a major meeting on a specific subject. They contain several sets of talking points that are targeted to meetings on subtopics.


Research 24
Scripted Interviews 25
Topic Checklist 27
Great Grades Checklist 28
Grading Rubric 29
References 30


Science, Technology, and Policy examines the practical aspects of who brings advice, what content is communicated, who uses it, and how it becomes public policy.

Students will review the key institutions, individuals, and instruments involved in science and technology (S&T) policy. The review will cover processes to create US policy, the US agenda as it has changed from administration-to-administration, and how US interests play out in international situations. During this time, students will look for an area of policy of interest to follow for the rest of the course.

Rather than traditional examinations, students will track their policy issues and engage in a number of creative exercises designed to impart a sense of what science policy analysts do. This aspect of “writing in the discipline” provides excellent preparation for anyone seeking to move into policy work. Students will develop a portfolio of professional policy skills including research methods, network building, and professional communication techniques. Students will also be challenged to keep current with developments in S&T policy while critically evaluating the media source presenting the information.

After each assignment, the instructor will conduct a discussion to allow students to outline issues that will then be related to classic case studies in science policy.


Students will learn to:

1. Understand the basic dynamics of the US interagency community
2. Define who the policy players and stakeholders are and their agendas
3. Identify major US policy initiatives and how they change with administrations
4. Explore the role of the US in the international policy arena
5. Work through the role of science advisor and understand the support system
for principals
6. Learn how to investigate major public policy issues
7. Learn to give policy advice and coordinate staffers
8. Learn to accept and give peer review feedback
9. Develop critical thinking skills
10. Create a portfolio of real policy skills

The “Two Cultures”

British physicist and novelist Charles Percy Snow coined the term “The Two Cultures” in the title of his 1959 Rede Lecture at Cambridge. He put forward the idea that a loss of communication between the sciences and the humanities — the cultures in question — was becoming an impediment to solving the world’s problems.

Consider what Snow said in 1959:

A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s?

I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question — such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? — not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language. So the great edifice of modern physics goes up, and the majority of the cleverest people in the western world have about as much insight into it as their neolithic ancestors would have had.

Snow’s words may be even more important today. Consider the US Congress. In 2005, there were 2 physicists among the 100 Senators, 435 Representatives, 5 Delegates, and sole Resident Commissioner. Members are – for the most part – humanities majors with people skills galore making decisions about what to do about nuclear waste and health care and melamine in dog food.

If you are tempted simply to say that our elected officials are “stupid,” think again. They got us to elect them.

Would scientists do better? Perhaps not, according to an old joke that goes:

A man asked a physicist what time it was.

The physicist answered, “First, there was The Big Bang. Then, planets cooled. Slowly, due to mutations in response to stimuli and other factors of natural selection, man evolved. Then, the Swiss developed an inordinate interest in the metrics of time. Of course, ‘clock’ – as we all know – comes from the Celtic word ‘clocca’ meaning ‘bell’ or ‘alarm.’…”

“I asked you for the time,” the man fumed. “Not the history of time.”

Scientists love what they do in seeking truth. They see beauty in that truth and elegance in well-documented scientific findings. Their culture honors the contributions of groundbreaking predecessors. Hence, they often want to communicate, not simply an answer, but the flight of thought that led to it. Even Isaac Newton wrote:

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

The problem here is that non-scientists, even very smart people lacking science literacy, may not see any beauty in scientific detail. They see equations that look like math and abbreviations that do not spell words. Worse, for decision makers, none of that detail answers the one burning question they have: “How do I vote?”

If scientists are not getting elected and bringing their expertise to Congress and members of Congress are not reading science trade magazines to inform their decision making, the good news is that their actions leave room for people with both sets of skills to serve in the very valuable role of “translator.”

No matter what challenges they face, science policy writers hold to a few truths:

* The science has to be real. Cold fusion is a great idea until someone asks to prove it. Because scientific methods and experiments can be duplicated by other scientists, the science used to make decisions needs to be real.

* The science needs to be comprehensible to the consumer. Policy writers need to communicate the elements of the science that make the technology work without turning off the principal as a reader.

* The science cannot be so dumbed down that it is no longer factually true. While some details may be lost in translation, the boundaries – positive and negative – of what the science is capable of doing must remain.

* The science should not be politicized. Leave spin to politicians. Instead, science policy writers must try to provide an accurate account of both the pros and cons of a new technology.

Policy Writing

The high school essay — We are familiar with the form of essay diagramed on the left: start with a broad opening and narrow to a topic sentence in the first paragraph, give three paragraphs of support, and then reverse your opening paragraph into a broad statement. That works in most academic situations.

Professional policy writing — In policy writing, we lose the broad statements and open with a “topic sentence” as illustrated on the right. By opening with your conclusion, you crystallize your thoughts. The tool to accomplish this is the policy sentence. It helps you be concise.

Policy sentences follow the form: Actor – action – outcome – meaning. While it may seem stilted, this type of sentence greatly improves the quality and clarity of your writing in short pieces. It also gives you a “hook” for examples.

Actor – This is usually the government entity responsible for a policy.

Action – The action describes what the actor is doing.

Outcome – This describes what the consequence of the action was. Some people call this the “object” or the “what.”

Meaning – The meaning provides a metric, scope, or scale to the outcome. Some people call this the “scope” or the “so what?” It tells a principal why he/she should care.

The US demarched Sudan for human rights violations and tied compliance to $50M in sanctions.

The decentralized system of science funding within the US has delayed implementation of the US-EU Science and Technology (S&T) Agreement at a cost of $11B in FY07.

THINK CRITICALLY — The best policy writing is that which has mulled over the issue and seeks to present balanced information to the decisionmaker.

Topic Guidance

What can I choose as a topic? Your topic must have a science and a policy component. Generally, some latitude may be given for work on emerging technologies. Choose something that interests you. This will likely be one of the few times in your college career that the professor allows you to study something of your choosing in depth for a semester. Take a flier. Stretch.

What about my “second” topic? Here’s a weird idea but go with me a moment: consider making your “second choice” your first choice. Study Plan B and let someone else inform you of Plan A. You already know about Plan A – you have interest in it for whatever reason. This is a chance to find out a lot about Plan B. Maybe Plan B should be Plan A in your life and you’re overlooking something about it simply because you’re not familiar enough with the issues surrounding that topic. Explore it.

What makes a good topic? Look for science that people are talking about. Does it solve a problem? Does it create a problem? Do policy makers need to de/regulate, control, or address this issue? Are scientists studying it? Is the issue in the news? Now, look at the assignments you have to do. Do you think you can write those pieces with your topic?

How do I get started? Read everything you can get your hands on in the literature, magazines, and on-line (what are people saying about your topic?); from Congressional sources (is anyone moving legislation on your topic?); and from international news media (does the topic have “play” in the world?). Read, read, read. Once you have baseline knowledge, you can proceed to interviews.

How much time should I spend reading? Initially, during your “read in” phase, you may need to do about 20 hours of reading. Then, you should spend 20-60 minutes per day looking for updated information. If you have the capability on your computer, you may want to set up an RSS feed on your topic.

How do I focus my topic? Get to the website of the industry, trade, or professional society involved in the topic. Find out what entity within the government is working that issues. Most professional societies, non-governmental organizations, industries, and government offices have an office of public policy. Find it on the website and start reading press releases. What are the issues of concern to these offices? What are people talking about? Where is the controversy?

How do I know if a source is credible? Take a look at a website or magazine and find out who sponsors it. That’s called caveating. Is the group liberal, conservative, domestic, international, old, or new? Industry-based doesn’t always mean “industry biased” but you should think about WHO is telling you the information as well as what it is. Look also for iconoclasts and nay-sayers. They may have a very valid point – even if it’s not what you want to hear about your issue.

What are some possible topics? Stem cells, technology surprise, biometrics, nuclear weapons, pharmaceutical issues, nanotechnology, biotechnology, biological collections, chemical weapons, scientific openness, clean air or water, alternative energy, and more.


Dossiers, often called “bios,” are used to introduce people. Principals often have official bios with photographs. Briefers can offer them as a “get acquainted” gesture.

Profile for YOUR FULL NAME

Name: Your Full Name (form of address – what you prefer to be called)

Education Summary: Institution, Degree (Concentration/major), Year or Year Expected

Program: major, affiliation, whatever brought you to class

Career goal: what would you like to do

Policy experience: what, when, where

Policy interests: be specific
Disinterests: be specific

Reason for taking the class/expectations: think broadly

What should be known about you:

An example:
Profile for Amanda Tanner

Name: Amanda Tanner (Mandy)

Education Summary: Northwestern University, BS (Chemistry and Physics), 2003

Program: non-degree

Career goal: changing to policy career from science

Policy experience: internship, 2006, House Science Committee

Policy interests: nanotechnology, high energy physics
Disinterests: anything bio-related or environmental topics

Reason for taking the class/expectations: I would like to compile writing sample portfolio for NGO jobs. I would also like to practice my public speaking skills.

What should be known about you: I maintain contacts with the House Science Committee staffers.

Background Paragraphs

Background paragraphs provide a neutral, 360° view of the topic. What are the positives and negatives on the issue? Who are the stakeholders and what do they have to say?

Open your paragraph with a policy sentence that explains the present state of your topic. The substance of this first sentence should be supported by three to five sentences that explain single issues. Think broadly – before you write – about what needs to be communicated regarding the US position.

• Use bullets to highlight your issues when appropriate. Bullets are useful when there are several related issues.

• Use bold text to highlight headers and bulleted lists. If the reader does not have time to read the document completely, your issues should be easily gleaned by scanning the page. Do not use bold to emphasize random words or phrases.

• Do not use editorial language. Your opinion is irrelevant to informing principals and policy makers. Editorial language can be used sparingly when writing policy recommendations.

• Do not provide a link to a website in support of your summary. You must summarize the content of the website and any other information into a brief statement.

• Limit your use of adjectives, adverbs, and non-essential language. Your point will be clear and concise.

• Facts require references. You do not need to provide them unless asked but you must have them ready.

Title [based on the topic and centered]

[2 blank lines]
Policy sentence (actor-action-outcome-meaning) followed by a few sentences that provide overarching support to this idea. This is called the “tee up” language. It sets the tone for the piece.

• Subtopic Header – Open with a policy sentence. Use 1-2 sentences of facts to support this point. Boil the idea down to its most important elements. There may be 3-5 subtopics.

If appropriate, you may wish to conclude with a few sentences that outline the “next steps” for that issue.


Near-term Oil and Gas Concerns

The Department of Energy (DOE) should support new drilling technology and drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) to provide an alternative to foreign oil. The short-term economic impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the subsequent spike in both oil and natural gas prices frightened consumers and reflected the consequences of future, potentially more severe shortages.

• Foreign Oil — DOE estimates as much as 2/3 of the nation’s oil comes from 2nd- and 3rd-World Nations at potential risk for political instability. Consequences of an oil crisis like the one in 1973 would be more deeply felt now than ever before because imports continue to rise as a percentage of total oil consumption.

• Ultra-deepwater Drilling Technology — DOE analysis shows the largely untapped supply of oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico could provide a stable source of fossil fuels through 2050. Both the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the New Apollo Energy Act of 2005 include provisions for funding ultra-deepwater technology.

• ANWR — Both the House and Senate Bills are considering bills to open the ANWR to drilling despite the controversy surrounding potential ecological impacts. Oil would be available for commercial use approximately fifteen years after legislation permitting drilling and, at its peak, would provide the U.S. with 2 million barrels per day.


Implementing the US-Poland Science and Technology Agreement:
Cooperation and Collaboration Issues

The decentralized system of science funding within the US has delayed implementing the US-Poland Science and Technology (S&T) Agreement at a cost of $1.6B since the start of FY04. The Polish Government (GOP) suggested the creation of a Joint US-Poland research and development fund to centralize programs within the US and facilitate coordination with US scientists. Science Minister Kleiber corrected that his intent was to have a Secretariat and not a granting agency. The problem of decentralized funding extends more broadly to mobility of personnel and collaboration.

• Student exchange – Kleiber believes there are not enough Polish students coming to the US to study compared to China or Korea. He suggested a central clearinghouse for assisting students who apply to the US to find schools.

• Mobility of scientists – Kleiber agreed with the National Science Foundation’s concern that not having continued collaboration facilitated by an Agreement may potentially force younger Polish scientists to look to the EU for research partners and funding.

• S&T collaboration – Kleiber cited GOP’s arrangement with Germany establishing a joint panel to review projects and set funding priorities (i.e., funding separately on each side of the border). He expressed an interest in pursuing such an arrangement with the US through NSF. Kleiber will meet with NSF on May 21.

GOP brought up the closure of the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Joint Fund II (MSCII) and elaborated on the idea of a new bilateral “trust fund” for science that would be created as a private enterprise. USG reminded GOP that the MSCII Fund residual, by decision of the Commissioners, was used to create a scholarship program that is about to select its first Fellow. USG further suggested that GOP look into the Czech Republic’s model, AMVIS (also created with the residual from a US Joint S&T Fund), a non-governmental organization created to foster US-Czech collaboration.

Situation Reports

A variation of the summary paragraph is the situation report (sitrep). A sitrep should include up-to-the-minute information on your topic. A sitrep also assumes that the reader is familiar enough with the topic such that many basic abbreviations need not be expanded. Ask someone knowledgeable to read your paragraph and identify missing information/provide questions that come to mind. Revise your paragraph to include those answers whenever possible. Note: in a sitrep, the actors may be people or smaller government entities.


Situation Report on the Impact of the Value Added Tax (VAT)/Customs Duties
on the US-Poland Science and Technology Agreement Negotiations

USG would like to use Poland as a test case for taxation reciprocity with the EU. The VAT/excise on assistance is the only issue preventing signing the US-Poland S&T agreement. The impasse results from Federal Law Section 579 that requires an exemption from VAT and excise that the Government of Poland (GOP) believes violates EU regulations. The GOP considers the VAT issue “marginal” and wishes to settle it as soon as possible to move past the two-year-long impasse. GOP claims to have asked (several times) for information on how other countries within the EU collaborate with the US on S&T.

• S/DAS asked GOP to work with the EC directly in assessing application of EU VAT law, particularly to foreign assistance provided by a third country. STC again asked for citations to appropriate Polish and EU law deemed inconsistent with the Congressionally mandated tax exemption provision.

• American Embassy Warsaw (Post) has already requested that the GOP consult with the EC directly on this issue. Kleiber was asked if there were lawyers from Embassy Poland with EU/EC expertise who might be able to work with L on appropriate solutions to this lingering issue.

• GOP suggested that Poland be deemed like France (or any other EU country exempt from VAT) or that the proposed Agreement be signed without the taxation provision (leaving this to be negotiated later). STC explained this was not possible.

STC has asked Polish Embassy lawyers to give us the language of the provision in question. USG has been working to soften the required language. One option is to change the language to center on commodities. Post has suggested that GOP consult the EC directly to see whether our language might in fact be acceptable to the EC.


Another variation of the summary paragraph is the backgrounder. Backgrounders are the opposite of sitreps in a sense; writers assume that the reader lacks familiarity with the topic but needs to “get smart” on it quickly. Hence, backgrounders communicate basic information about a topic to provide a foundation for briefings or other documents to follow. Some people call these documents “primers.”

Open your paragraph with a policy sentence that explains the present state of your topic. The substance of this first sentence should be supported by three to five sentences that explain single issues. Think broadly – before you write – about “teaching” the subject to the reader.

• Use bold text to highlight headers. If the reader does not have time to read the document completely, he/she will be able to scan for content. Do not use bold to emphasize random words or phrases.

• Do not use editorial language. Strive for a neutral tone. Look at the writing in Scientific American or Science Illustrated for great examples.

• Do not dumb down the information so much that you are no longer representing the truth. You must summarize the content of the science but communicate any caveats.

• If possible, illustrate your point with a graphic. People want to understand. Many visual learners will not really “get” the point until the see a representation of the data that helps them make sense of it.

• Facts require references. You do not need to provide them unless asked but you must have them ready.

• Be prepared for follow-up questions. Everyone has questions when they learn new things. In professional settings, a good basic paper may lead to an invitation to brief.

Template: This form will vary with how your principal likes to receive information.

Visual: For visual learners, break the topic into parts and provide at least one graphic. Most people appreciate this format.

Reader: For people who like to read, write a short, informative essay about the subject.

Scanner: For quick scanners, follow the template of a background paragraph or break the topic into parts with short, concise bullets.

Talking Points

Talking points are used when a principal will speak on an issue. They can be formal or informal. Because talking points are going to be said aloud, they cannot contain convoluted or difficult language. Ideally, they should reflect the speech patterns of the person using the talking points.

• Talking points are best as 1-2 sentences – a policy sentence followed by a supporting fact. Each talking point should impart only one idea.

• Each point must be supported with appropriate background material – usually a short paragraph to familiarize the principal with specifics or history of the idea.

• Facts require references. You do not need to provide them unless asked but you must have them ready and caveat your sources when needed.

• Think “clear, readable, and retainable.” People may have to use this information in social situations (at informal negotiations) or to give an impromptu speech on the subject.

• Use bold text only to highlight headers for navigation.

• Put the points in approximate order of importance.

• Contentious talking points should be labeled. Here are two special categories:

• LANDMINE – (a topic sensitive to the audience) a landmine is an issue which, if the principal talks about it, may change the tone of the meeting by making his/her audience uncomfortable or defensive
• IF RAISED – (a topic sensitive to your principal) an “if raised” is an issue for the principal to avoid but which – if raised by the audience – the speaker must be prepared to address

Title [based on the topic and centered]

[2 blank lines]
Policy sentence (actor-action-outcome-meaning). Follow with a few sentences that provide overarching support to this idea and set the tone for the talking points. This short opening paragraph is called the “tee up” language.

• Subtopic Header – Begin with a policy sentence. Support you idea with 1-2 sentences of facts.
• Support your policy sentence with one or two bullets of examples.
• Usually, there are 3-5 subtopics.

Example: Note – Usually, analysts avoid calling on what “should” be done by using a more balanced approach of pros and cons that lets the policy maker decide. While these talking points – written at a time of change – border on “policy prescription,” they are an excellent treatment of the subject.

Talking Points: Increasing Human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) should update its system to include all existing stem cells available for use, and limit future hESC lines to those derived from supernumerary in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures to enhance federal stem cell research programs. The National Stem Cell Bank, the sole resource of information for federally funded stem cell projects, contains only hESC lines derived prior to 9 August 2001.

Publish cell lines — In line with Executive Order 13505, NIH should maintain a complete and public listing of all currently available hESC lines to minimize the number of wasted embryos and maximize the efficiency stem cell research.

• The National Stem Cell Bank only provides federal scientists with information for 21 approved hESC lines out of the hundreds that have been differentiated without federal funding after the Bush Administration’s restrictions of 2001.
• Increased availability of well-characterized hESC lines would focus scientists on discovering tissue renewal procedures and other therapies vice basic characterization procedures.

Educate potential donors — NIH should provide educational resources on embryo donation to increase the number of cell lines available for research. While multiple embryos are often created for each IVF pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 1998 that over half of the 230 US-based IVF clinics immediately discard left over embryos.

• The drafted NIH guidelines for future hESC policy prohibit hESC derived from any source besides IVF—including somatic cell nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis.
• Geron, a private genetic research firm, uses only supernumerary IVF embryos that were voluntarily donated for their NIH approved clinical trials.
• Presently there are approximately 400,000 frozen embryos stored in IVF clinics in the United States, which could be donated to scientific research.

Improve drug testing — NIH should call for hESC research as an alternative to animal testing in pharmaceutical research. Animal testing can prove unreliable as drugs that only possess efficacy in animals can manifest severe side effects when used by humans.

• Scientists recently used heart cells created from hESC to test heart disease drugs without resorting to animal models.
• It takes approximately 10 years for development and safety precautions – costing roughly $1 billion dollars – to introduce a new drug to the market. Animal testing is 10-20 percent of this cost.

Background on hESC

Bush Administration Policy – Separation of Research Institutions — In 2001, the Bush Administration created restrictions banning federally funded research from using any information from hESC lines derived after August 9, 2001 (see attachment 1). While these restrictions may have satisfied those opposed to hESC testing, it limited US scientists to working on 70 approved stem cells lines. Science reporting indicates only 21 of these lines are not contaminated with corrupting genetic material. Limited research capability created frustration throughout the scientific and medical world, giving rise to a separation of federally funded institutions and privately run institutions.

Obama’s Executive Order 13505 — On March 9, 2009, President Obama issued
EO 13505, Removing Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells (see attachment 2), revoking Bush’s ban on hESC research. At the signing, Obama stated, “We appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals.” The order requires the Director of NIH to issue new guidelines for US hESC research within 120 days from the signing

Using Supernumerary IVF Embryos for hESC Testing — Both the House and Senate are considering specific recommendations for the use of IVF embryos, initially created for reproductive purposes, in cell lines given explicit donor consent. Countries in favor of such IVF testing include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

Replacing Animal Testing with hESC Testing — The Human Society of the United States reports that millions of animals per year are subjected to harmful tests, many resulting in the death of the animal. Using hESC testing would both spare these animals and provide more accurate human-modeled results. British Professor of Developmental Biology Christine Mummery, a leading advocate of this testing, specifically sees gains in testing drugs for heart disease patients. Researchers using human heart cells, derived from hESC to test new drugs, instead of testing on mice or other animals, produced more reliable toxicity data. Using hESC cells for testing pharmaceuticals before clinical human trials can decrease the likelihood of such side effects.

Note: Attachments were removed for length considerations.

Bullet Briefs

Bullet briefs are used for principals who need to be informed but who will not likely be called upon to speak. They may or may not be followed by background paragraphs.

• Bullets are best as one sentence, which imparts one fact.

• Use bold text to highlight only the most important point.

• Put the points in approximate order of importance. Group subtopic ideas together.

• Think “readable and retainable.” People may have to use this information in social situations or to give an impromptu speech.


Maria Sklodowska-Curie Joint Fund II highlights

• The Maria Sklodowska-Curie Joint Fund II (MSCII) will formally close with a Commissioners meeting in Warsaw, Poland on December 2, 2002.

• Poland was the first Eastern European country with which the U.S. signed a science and technology umbrella agreement.

• A joint fund operated from the early 70s through 1981, when martial law was declared. Though political relations were strained, the U.S. and Poland decided to maintain relations between their scientific communities.

• Established in 1987, the MSCII served as a continuation of the commitment U.S. to supporting scientific cooperation; it supported 20 projects in its first year alone and over 350 projects during its lifetime.

• Research was done in areas of mutual benefit to U.S. and Poland: environment, energy, health, transportation, and information technologies.

• The Fund facilitated coordinated programs, meetings, and other forms of scientific and technological cooperation. Closing the fund represents a “graduation” of sorts for a robust Polish scientific enterprise.

• Polish Principal investigators who have received MSCII grants include members of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Many grantees have won prestigious awards.

• Prof. Piotr Penczek [pen check] (Industrial Chemistry Research Institute, Warsaw, Poland) – studied epoxide resins
 Eureka Prize
 Awards from Polish Construction Industry

Policy Recommendations

Policy recommendations are a cross between background paragraphs and analytical pieces. While they lack the personal touch of an opinion editorial, they are crafted to give a specific perspective and well-outlined reasoning that a principal can follow to use in decision making.

• Policy recommendations are used to suggest a specific course of action to a principal.

• Policy recommendations should start with context.

• The recommendations should have a specific action attached to a specific reason.

• Put the recommendations in approximate order of importance.

• Think “readable and retainable.”


To: Name of principal
Date: Give complete date
Subject: Give a title

Give a paragraph or two – like tee-up language – describing the background on the topic.

Recommendations: Number your recommendations.

Recommendation 1 (Background)
Write a short,

Recommendation 1 (Background)
Write a short,


To: The President of the United States and Cabinet Members
Date: 1 December 2010
Subject: Assessment of Anti-Imperialist Front (AIF) Activities

Embassy Nairobi reported the crash of a DC-bound Kenyan Airways flight two minutes after taking off from Nairobi International Airport. Embassy should continue to monitor the investigation of the crash to ascertain whether it represents an escalation from targeting ground transportation.

The US intelligence community has been monitoring Anti-Imperialist Front (AIF) activities in Kenya to ensure the safety of the upcoming economic summit. CIA should coordinate with UK intelligence to obtain additional data.

Recommendations: 1) upgrade of threat condition for Embassy Nairobi and 2) increase surveillance of Anti-Imperialist Front (AIF) activities.

Upgrade Threat Condition for American Embassy Nairobi
Local ground transportation may be vulnerable targets as this is a known method of AIF attack. Post may temporarily want to use Marine drivers rather than foreign nationals. Kenyan press reporting suggests the AIF is targeting transportation systems used by foreigners especially from the U.S. and UK. The same press report claims that a disguised mini-van and explosives was found at an AIF safe house in the Ngong Hills district. The Christian Science Monitor reported that two foreign nationals on the security staff at Embassy Nairobi arrested on corruption charges might be AIF plants. The pair implied a potential threat to Embassy Nairobi later this month (mid-December or during the holidays) might involve someone driving “right up to the Ambassador’s window.” This could impact upcoming economic talks.

Increase Surveillance of AIF Activities
Kenyan press reports criticized AIF Chairman Smith’s growing “inattention to the basic needs of AIF foot soldiers” and increasing “cult of personality” as responsible for a decline in revolutionary zeal and morale within the ranks. That said, the Kenyan Security Service had noted a doubling in AIF forces in the past year. Increased unemployment, doubling in the last three years to 16%, may make AIF activities more attractive to younger men. International press reporting suggests AIF Chairman Smith has between 1000 – 5000 military personnel armed with WWII era equipment. The US intelligence community recommends seeding ground troops with a Swahili-speaking agent.

Opinion Editorials

Opinion editorials must convey the issue clearly in a well-developed narrative. Opinion editorials are used to express your personal view on the topic but can take on more creative approaches. Once polished, you may wish to submit your assignment for publication.

• Think “readable and retainable.” You want to bring people to your side of the issue.

• Don’t get “too cute.” You will lose ten readers for every one that you gain.

• Do not use bold to highlight your point.

• Test your piece. Edit for:

• logic
• order of your points
• language – especially “fat” writing and redundancy
• tone – how does the piece “come off?”
• grammar


This is just an “essay” that expresses your opinion.


Agroterrorism: Threats to Agriculture and Food Industries

Disease surveillance, detection, diagnosis and rapid intervention are important in curbing the biological warfare threat due to the communicable nature of many of the diseases caused by pathogens in question. Agribusiness is often overlooked as a vulnerability to biological terrorism.

The centralization of U.S. farming activities has increased livestock disease susceptibility that has challenged established surveillance and reporting systems. Additionally, farm and food related security tends not to emphasize foreign animal diseases in veterinarian education and training compared with endemic disease issues. Consequently, the agricultural sector of society is only just beginning to recognize its vulnerabilities and respond to agroterrorist threats and other biosecurity issues.

Vulnerability arises in that large numbers of livestock in geographically concentrated areas, a centralized feed supply, and rapid movement of animals to markets. In addition, US crops are vulnerable to disease primarily because they lack genetic diversity. An antilivestock biological warfare attack could result in multiple outbreaks throughout the United States before disease is diagnosed. Confirmation of an animal contagion would almost certainly result in immediate termination of exports and potential banning of livestock products for export.

A deliberate act of terrorism is something the majority of the agricultural community has largely not thought about, much less actively implemented, new measures to guard itself from disruption. Most farms operate in a relatively open manner; seldom incorporating means to prevent unauthorized access or interference. The lack of secured barriers is frequently the case with large centralized farms at locations such as feeding stations or milking stands. Security at animal sales is even less apparent and the environment is chaotic and purposefully designed to allow animal-human interaction. Food processing and packing plants also present few barriers though they may be more difficult to penetrate because of an increase in security compared to the farms themselves. These facilities largely lack uniform internal quality control standards, inefficient biosurveillance practices, and the work force is transient and may be undocumented. Simple security practices such as padlocks, badging of workers, access points, increased record keeping and patrolling of animal yards are low-cost safety measures that could act to deter and help identify intrusions or post-exposure tracing.

The responsibility for disease reporting in the United States as well as other countries is a governmental function. While initial detection likely rests with the farmers and producers, the mechanisms for reporting are not uniform and communication channels can be confusing and rudimentary. Guidelines most likely are out of date. Reporting of disease outbreaks is not the farmer’s first choice, containment and treatment may be the only hopes that a farm can stay economically viable. Without government farm supports, in the case of culling, disease reporting may act as a deterrent to good biosecurity measures. The consequence is that current systems in place do little to promote early warning and identification of outbreaks.

The number of US veterinarians who are capable of detecting and treating foreign animal diseases is declining. This is due to declining student entrants as well as the lack of biosecurity curricula at the education and training colleges. This has resulted in a lack of trained and certified diagnostic veterinarians with the necessary expertise to deal with foreign animal diseases that may be used in a deliberate act of agroterrorism.

As farms have increased in size and many activities have become semi-automated, farmers and ranchers have focused less on individual animal needs. This trend has forced many producers to rely on aggregate data such as overall milk yield to monitor and regulate their animal populations. This data has in some cases supplanted the past practices of animal check-ups and individual veterinary care. This can lead to a deficit in surveillance and detection of emerging diseases.

Without increased surveillance and detection the agricultural and food sectors of our economies will remain vulnerable and the weaknesses outlined could easily be exploited. As we know many animal and crop diseases are tough and environmentally resilient and many are not the focus of livestock vaccination programs. Many of the most dangerous agents are not far from our borders and disease samples could be taken from diseased animals or from natural outbreaks and can be easily transported to farms where new outbreaks can emerge. Also these diseases are normally not a danger to humans and therefore pose little risk of infection for the carrier. However the introduction of animal disease can be lethal to humans as contaminated livestock moves into the food chain, or if not lethal, the outbreak can be economically ruinous to the industry as containment measures are enforced after detection. This is especially relevant when we consider how fast some of these diseases can spread.

Therefore preventing and controlling future biological threats to agriculture has become even more challenging and the improvement of national measures related to implementation of BWC-related activities has become very important. Properly implemented, such measures can help reduce the threat not only from states, but also from individuals and terrorist organizations.

Briefing Book
Content Checklist

A briefing book is simply a collection of products that prepares a principal for a meeting, symposium, or summit that may cover several issues or many facets of one complex issue. Most briefing books have 3 – 5 subtopics and contain the following elements:

Table of Contents
Executive Summary
Science Backgrounder

For each subtopic
Taking points

List of Acronyms
List of Key Researchers
List of Key Government Personnel
List of Key Legislators
List of Key Pieces of Legislation – regulatory and draft


Going online and doing a keyword search is not enough to make this type of assignment work. You have to be like a journalist or a private investigator on top of being an academic researcher.

Read, read, read — Read everything you can get your hands on about your subject.

Read again — The single biggest mistake a research can make is stopping once he/she finds an answer. The news changes every day so you must keep up with developments in your area.

Leverage your professors — Is there a professor on campus (or locally) who follows your topic? You should take time to meet with that person. Find out what they think are the most important (and divisive) subtopics related to your issue. Ask who the leaders are in your topic in academia, industry, the non-governmental community, and government.

Interview people — A telephone or face-to-face interview with a subject matter expert is a great way to increase your knowledge and build yourself a network. If you are not sure what you should say, you can write yourself a script. However, you should only approach experts AFTER you have done your own homework. (So, read, read, read!)

Beware the internet — “Googling” a topic is not a great way to learn about it. While you might learn some basic information, you must be aware of the biases of those who are presenting information to you. Would it surprise you to learn that an on-line dating service did research that “proved” that people do better meeting their spouses through internet dating than through other forms of social interaction if you saw it on their website?

THINK CRITICALLY — Again, the best policy writing is that which has carefully considered the issue and seeks to present balanced information to the decision maker.

Scripted Interview

Here is a basic template for a scripted interview. It can be used over the phone or as a “lap document” – hidden by your portfolio – in person.

My name is ___. I’m a ___-year ____ major taking Science and Public Policy in the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. ____, our professor, suggested I speak with you. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about ___.

I will need about ___ minutes. Is this a good time or should I make an appointment to call back?

*Outline the issues of your topic.

I think the most important issues related to ___ are ___.

*Ask you have it right.

Check priority – What do you think are the most important issues related to ___?
Check for breaking news – Are there any emerging topics in this field?
Check timeliness – Am I focused on outdated problems?
Check completeness – Have I missed any important issues related to ___?

*Ask for sources and leads.

Check sources – I have read ___. I have spent time on the ___ website.
Is there something else I should be reading or a website I should visit?
Check experts – Who do you think are the top five experts in this field?
Check contacts – Is there another expert/contact you have that I should

*Be professional, polite, but firm. You can gently cycle back to questions that were evaded by saying, “I’m sorry. I don’t think I captured your answer on ____ in my notes. Could you remind me what you stance is on ____ ?”

*Recap what your lead discussed.
*Ask if you can recontact your lead if you have any additional questions.
*Document the interview or visit with the name, complete contact information, and date/time you spoke.

The easiest thing to do is to have them send you the signature file of their email.

Interview DO’s and DON’Ts

DO make sure you’ve done your homework before calling.
DO be polite and professional.
DO follow a script so you don’t forget anything.
DO understand that people want to help you… so there is no reason to sound
“apologetic” on the phone.
DO make sure this is a good time for the call. If either you or your subject have
to “squeeze it in,” consider rescheduling.
DO be firm about getting your questions answered.

DON’T argue. It’s great that you have knowledge of the subject and an opinion
about it but you are talking to someone who makes a living in the field so show
your respect.
DON’T forget to get contact information and secure the possibility of a follow up.

In case of catastrophic failure, be polite and get off the phone/exit the room as quickly as possible. Send your professor a note with the person’s contact info and your account of how things went wrong. Let your professor smooth things over.

Topic Checklist

The research that you are doing is directly related to what you will need to complete your briefing book. Do not throw any information away; it all has a place. Consider the following as you “read in” on your topic:

Language – What words or acronyms are key to understanding your issue?

Key Players – Who are the key players on your issue from Congress, industry, the non-governmental community, government (agencies and individuals), academia, professional societies, and thinktanks?

Key Legislation – Who is trying to regulate your issue? Who is for the legislation and who is against it? Are there similar issues in other countries? Has an international or professional society issued “best practices?”

Key Issues – What are the key issues being discussed? Where is the controversy? What is being regulated and why? Which players are related to these sub-issues?

Scientific Issues – What science issue is key to your topic? Which players are working on them?

Great Grades Checklist

While not every assignment needs all of these elements, this checklist is an excellent reminder of the little things we often forget.

• Were the major subtopics of the issue covered comprehensively and professionally?
• Is there a “why?” to give meaning to the facts?
• Does the paper represent the views of the Administration or policy community?
• Are there sufficient details to support your points?
• Is there clear analysis of the issue or is it collection of facts strung together?
• Would the paragraph be acceptable to me – as a policy analyst – to pass on as a primer or situation report on the topic?

Policy writing
• Does each paragraph open with a policy sentence that illustrates a clear arc of thought over actor-action-outcome-meaning?
• Is there adequate “tee-up” language?
• Does the paragraph read like policy writing or a high school essay?
• Is the message of the paragraph clear and concise?
• Do the bullets support the opening sentence?
• Did the student give caveats when appropriate?

• Are the points made in the paper documented with references?
• Are figures, drawings, maps, and other illustrations properly credited?
• If a specific document/policy was referenced, was the text provided?

Grammar and formatting
• Is the grammar correct?
• Is the format correct?
• Are headers, bullets, and white space used to aid navigation on the page?

• Does the paper employ active voice?
• Is the word choice appropriate in tone?
• Have non-essential language and redundancy been edited out?
• Does it fit on “one page?”

Special to opinion editorials
• Is there a clearly developed and expressed personal view of the topic?
• Is the argument made compelling or persuasive?

Special to talking points
• Is the language easy to take up from the page?
• Is the language easy to say aloud?

Colloquially “Fatal” Flaws
in Your Policy Writing

A policy sentence should illustrate a clear arc of thought over actor-action-outcome-meaning.

Actors — You need a specific actor within the government that will be responsible for a program.

“Not on this watch.” — If you are writing for the government, your paper should reflect the position of the Administration or the appropriate policy community.

“So what?” — You need to provide a “why” – usually a metric – to help people understand the scope of the problem and why they should care.

“Says who?” — You need to provide sources for your statements. Facts and figures need sources to keep from sounding like opinions. Graphics and ideas need sources to avoid plagiarism. Further, you need to caveat your sources. The Nation, The National Review, and The Economist will all have different takes on the same topic.

I was “CNNed.” — You need to be sure you have the most current information. Your principal should not find out key information from “CNN.”

Stuck in the weeds. — Your details should not be so many and so obscure that you lose track of your message. Facts must support their policy sentences.

“There’s no meat here.” — You do need sufficient detail to provide your principal with credibility on a subject. Check to be sure your major subtopics are covered comprehensively and professionally.

“It was all factoids.” — Be sure to provide a clear analysis of the issue instead of a collection of facts about it. For long passages of text that may be useful to your principal, create an annex.

Spin — “Franken food,” “genetically modified wheat,” and “protein enriched grains” may all refer to the same thing. Keep your language neutral and your tone professional

His name is “Francois.” — You should be able to provide proper spellings and pronunciations for all words you use.

His name is really “Denis.” — Edit.

This is a “text brick.” — Use headers, bullets, and white space used to aid navigation. Edit out excessive text. Almost all professional documents will fit on one page.

“Did anyone else look at this?” — Language should be easy to understand from a quick read. Talking points should make sense aloud. Test this with someone before passing it to your principal.

Grading Rubric

A — The “A” paper comprehensively covers the topic. Each section exemplifies good policy writing with an actor, action, outcome, and meaning. The paper is well researched, organized, and detailed. Sources are caveated and documented. Except in the case of an oped, it should represent the current view of the administration or interagency policy community. The paper contains no or few minor errors. The “A” assignment would be acceptable as the policy work of a new analyst that could be passed to a principal.

B — The “B” paper usually lacks one element throughout. It may lack a subtopic critical to understanding the topic or an element among policy actors, actions, outcomes, or meanings. The paper may require better organization or more sufficient detail. Sources may lack caveating or documentation. The paper contains minor errors. The “B” assignment would be typical of policy work that has to be revised before being passed forward.

C — The “C” paper contains several errors throughout. It requires additional research to cover the subject. It lacks more than one element among policy actors, actions, outcomes, or meanings. The paper may be missing sources. It may also have several logical, grammatical, or technical errors. The “C” assignment requires rewriting.

D — The “D” paper has severe logical, grammatical, or technical errors. It requires additional research and restructuring before it is rewritten.


Cite Your Sources! Failing to properly cite a source is a serious violation of academic and professional standards. Use quotation marks for information copied verbatim (from the writing of or interviews with any other person or persons, or from your own writing that has been published elsewhere) and identify the source fully with a footnote or endnote. You should include – as applicable – the author’s name, title of work, type of work (thesis, government report, phone call, website etc.), date, or page numbers. Incidents of plagiarism will be documented and referred to the Office of Academic Integrity with a minimum recommended sanction of a letter attached to the student’s transcript.

This guide is based on the second edition of The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors (1997). For a more thorough discussion refer to The ACS Style Guide which is available at the Chemistry and Engineering Libraries (Call number QD8.5.A25 1997 Reference Section). Other professors may favor other styles of reporting sources.

• References in the body of a paper can be cited by superscript that refers to an endnote. For example, a sentence could be marked in the middle1, if appropriate, or the end.2

• Arrange the references in your bibliography in the numerical order that the citations were used.

• Do not leave blank lines between references.

• Journal article titles and book chapter titles are not essential unless they distinguish the material. Use standard journal name abbreviations when needed.

• If a book as a whole is used, pagination is not necessary.

Book with Author(s)
Basic Format:
Author, A. A.; Author, B. B. Book Title (italics), Edition (if any); Publisher: Place of Publication, Year; Pagination.
Dill, K. A.; Bromberg, S. Molecular Driving Forces: Statistical Thermodynamics in Chemistry and Biology; Garland Science: New York, 2003.
Engel, R; Cohen, J. I. Synthesis of Carbon-Phosphorus Bonds: New Methods of Exploration; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, 2004; pp 54-56.
Zumdahl, S. S. Chemical Principles, 4th ed.; Houghton Mifflin: Boston, MA, 2002; p 7.

Book with Editor(s), and Entire Book is Referenced
Basic Format:
Editor, A. A., Editor, B. B., Editor, C. C., Eds. Book Title (italics); Series Information (if any, including series number); Publisher: Place of Publication, Year.
Lin, Q., Pearson, R. A., Hedrick, J. C., Eds. Polymers for Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics; ACS Symposium Series 874; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2004.

Authored Chapters in a Book with Editor(s)
Basic Format:
Author, A. A.; Author, B. B. Chapter Title. In Book Title (italics); Editor, A. A., Editor, B. B., Eds.; Series Information (if any, including series number); Publisher: Place of Publication, Year; Volume number (if any), Pagination.
Downs, G. M.; Barnard, J. M. Clustering Methods and Their Uses in Computational Chemistry. In Reviews in Computational Chemistry; Wiley: Hoboken, NJ, 2002; Vol. 18, p 11.
Lenhart, J. L.; Fischer, D. A.; Sambasivan, S.; Lin, E. K.; Soles, M. A. Utilizing Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure to Probe Interfacial Issues in Photolithography. In Polymers for Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics; Lin, Q., Pearson, R. A., Hedrick, J. C., Eds.; ACS Symposium Series 874; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC, 2004; pp 98-117.

Encyclopedia Article
Basic Format:
Article Title. Encyclopedia Name (italics), Edition number; Publisher: Place of Publication, Year; Volume Number, Pagination.
Psychopharmacological Agents. Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, 4th ed.; Wiley: New York, 1996; Vol. 20, pp 455-457.

Basic Format:
Editor, A. A., Editor, B. B., Eds. Handbook Title (italics), Edition number [Online if online]; Publisher: Place of Publication, Year; Pagination or other identifying information.
Budavari, S., O’Neil, M. J., Smith. A., Heckelman, P. E., Kinneary, J. F., Eds. The Merck Index: An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals, 13th ed.; Merck & Company: Whitehouse Station, NJ, 2001; entry 5066.
Lide, D. R., Ed. CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 84th ed. [Online]; CRC Press: Boca Raton, FL, 2003; p 83.

Journal Articles
Basic Format:
Author, A. A; Author, B. B; Author, C. C. Title of Article. Journal Abbreviation (italics) [Online if online] Year (boldface), Volume (italics), Pagination.
Borman, S. Protein Sequencing For The Masses. Chem. Eng. News [Online] 2004, 82, pp 22-23.
Slunt, K. M.; Giancarlo, L. C. Student-Centered Learning: A Comparison of Two Different Methods of Instruction. J. Chem. Educ. 2004, 81, pp 985-988.
Takahaski, T. The Fate of Industrial Carbon Dioxide. Science [Online] 2004, 305, 352-353.

Basic Format:
Last name, First Name; Last Name, First Name. Article Title. Newspaper Title (italics), Complete Date, Pagination.
Jones, Margot. Panel Urges NASA to Save Hubble Space Telescope. New York Times, July 16, 2004, p A1.

Basic Format:
Author, A. A. (if any). Title of Site. URL (accessed date), other identifying information. (No need to include URL of subscription sites).
ChemFinder.Com. http://chemfinder.cambridgesoft.com (accessed July 14, 2004).
The Combined Chemical Dictionary database, web version 2004 (1); CRC Press: Boca Raton: FL (accessed July 16, 2004).


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