Like past AGU Congressional Fellows, I look back on my year on the Hill as rewarding and challenging. It gave me an opportunity to contribute to the legislative process and time to reflect on my role as a scientist.
As a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), I worked on programmatic research funded by the federal government (e.g., nuclear waste disposal) and knew of the impact of congressional decisions on the direction of my research. What I did not know was how Congress came to make these decisions and who provided the technical input. Congress has taken on the role of technical manager, particularly with legislation that deals with the environment (e.g., Superfund, the Clean Water Act). This has been partly in response to the frustrations of dealing with technical problems that resist easy solutions and partly in response to the growing public interest in the impact of technology on their communities. As with any good manager, the result is legislation that is specific in its demand for scientific research and requires adherence to schedules and reporting requirements.