York professor awarded $117,000 to expand experiential education program for graduate students

British Columbia’s Ministry of Health has awarded York University Professor Eric Kennedy, from the School of Administrative Studies’ Disaster and Emergency Management program, $117,000 to support an expansion to the Science Outside the Lab (SOtL) program. Co-hosted with York University, SOtL is a competitive science policy immersion program that runs two sessions a year for graduate students and postdoctoral Fellows in any discipline.

Graduate students pose for a photo following the completion of the 2017 Science Outside the Lab program

This highly competitive workshop creates pathways for scientists and researchers who want to build a connection between their research and public policy. Participants learn how policies are developed, about government decision-making processes, and how science can support it. Over the course of eight days, participants get the opportunity to meet a number of influential leaders from policy analysts to chief scientists, science journalists to tri-council funders.

This funding will help to expand the program by supporting the design and launch of a third session in 2020 that is focused specifically on health policy and emergency management. A portion of the funding has also been earmarked to provide student scholarships to those admitted. It is expected that in addition to the topical program expansion, the third session will also reach a wider applicant pool by being located on the west coast of Canada.

Eric Kennedy
Eric Kennedy

“SOtL is building the next generation of science, policy, and health leaders in the Canadian public service,” said Kennedy. “By bringing together remarkable early-career researchers from across the country, we’re developing a community of highly trained public servants that can bridge the gaps between government, industry, and the academy.”

While some past participants sought connections to policy makers so that their research can have greater impact in shaping policy, others have found themselves considering careers in public policy after finishing the program.

Monica Granados, one of 94 SOtL alum, is now a policy analyst with Environment and Climate Change Canada. As a postdoctoral Fellow studying ecology at the University of Guelph and Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, she decided to apply to SOtL because her training had not given her exposure to the implications, outcomes or effects that research could have on policy.

“After producing a thesis, research or a report, this program answers the ‘What’s next?’” said Granados. “It’s an excellent opportunity to learn about the impact that science can have, and for me it was a window into a different career path that is rewarding and impactful.”