A transdisciplinary community has emerged as a result of the work of Virginia Tech’s Destination Areas. An outgrowth of the Policy Destination Area, the +Policy Network, reflects the original Destination Area’s mission and expands the breadth of engagement across Virginia Tech.

“The faculty involved with the +Policy Network have risen to the initial challenge, exceeding every expectation of advocating for policy-related research and education and addresses policy-based real-world solutions,” said Karen Roberto, University Distinguished Professor and executive director of the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment, which funds the +Policy Network and serves as its administrative home. “I am impressed with all their endeavors, and I am excited to see what they do next.”

The Policy Destination Area is one of the nine Destination Areas introduced in 2016. As the Destination Areas 2.0 shifts to a tighter research focus, the +Policy Network will continue to raise the visibility of policy and policy-related research and practice across the university.

"The idea behind the group has been to try different ways to add a policy lens to work faculty and students are doing that may not have had that interest before, hence the name +Policy," said Isabel Bradburn, director of the +Policy Network. "As the group gelled and continued to evaluate what we were doing and the reasons behind it, the concept of a network — drawing on expertise from across disciplines, across the university, and trying to be open, inclusive — made sense to the group."

The +Policy Network remains dedicated to building capacity for policy research, teaching, and training that connects STEM disciplines with social sciences and humanities. In particular, the network seeks to engage students, faculty, and community members in its four main focal areas: energy, environment, health, and technology policy.

Established programs, such as the Science, Technology, and Engineering in Policy Graduate Certificate; the +Policy Research Fellowship; and a spring Friday seminar, have received positive feedback from the university community. Additional new opportunities launching this spring include a professional development program and a technology policy conference.

New opportunities

Policy Camp

Designed to help provide basic training in policy-related research and thinking, Policy Camp is led by Anne-Lise Velez, collegiate associate professor in the Honors College and +Policy Network faculty. This professional development suite includes a combination of asynchronous, synchronous, in-person, and remote opportunities to those interested in furthering their understanding of policy concepts. Asynchronous credits provide a foundation in the basics of policy making processes for researchers to be more effective actors through better understanding of policy formulation, implementation, and mechanism of influence. The synchronous Policy Camp options will be offered this May and August and are aimed at applying concepts collaboratively and making connections with others interested in policy and policy research. Faculty can enroll in the modules as part of the university’s Computer Refresh program run by Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies, or sign up as part of ongoing annual professional development.  

Governance of New and Emerging Technologies

A virtual half-day symposium Governance of New and Emerging Technologies will be held April 6. University faculty panelists will present four 50-minute segments on the topics of health care, energy and environment, food and agriculture, and public interest and cyber security as they relate to the social implications of their technologies. Interested Virginia Tech faculty can register for this free conference.

Ongoing programs

Science, Technology, and Engineering in Policy Seminar

Also open to the university community, the Science, Technology, and Engineering in Policy (STEP) Seminar takes place every Friday from noon-1 p.m. in 209 Norris Hall throughout the spring semester. Invited speakers within and outside of the university will discuss their experiences working the science-policy interface and their thoughts about the process.

“The STEP program, which is a product of the +Policy Network, continues to grow, and not just with graduate students enrolled in the certificate but also through a vibrant community engaged in various program activities and events, including the weekly seminar,” said Todd Schenk, director of the STEP program and associate professor of public and international affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

+Policy Fellowship

For over five years, the +Policy Fellowship has provided funding for faculty with policy expertise who want to partner with new interdisciplinary research teams or develop competency in a new content area.  

Policy Scholars Program

New in the fall of 2022, the Policy Scholars Program aims to mentor new faculty in policy research by pairing a faculty member with policy expertise who will mentor a faculty member who desires to learn more about policy within their field.

To join the +Policy Network or for more information, contact the director, Isabel Bradburn at isbrad@vt.edu.

Written by Felicia Spencer