Working at the interface of Science and Policy or Science and Society offers many possible career paths of which being a scientist in academia is just one.

As part of the PhD Program Science and Policy, the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center offers mentoring to provide perspectives on these career paths. For example, in organized courses such as “Careers in Science and Policy, or both?” or connecting PhD students with relevant professionals from a wide range of institutions.

If you are interested in what a job at these institutions or in certain positions might look like, read the portraits of some of our guest professionals below.

Dominik Klauser (Alumni of the PhD Program)
Program Officer, Research and Development, Syngenta Foundation

I work for the Syngenta Foundation, a non-profit organization founded and funded by Syngenta. Our mandate is to support smallholder agriculture in developing countries. We address major bottlenecks faced by smallholders, including access to quality inputs (seeds, fertilizer, mechanization), remunerative output markets, training and finance (credit, insurance).
My responsibilities are to identify and test new technologies that could benefit small farmers. These include crop varieties, seed treatment, fertilizer formulations and smallholder-friendly insurance products. We develop and test innovations in close collaboration with our own staff in Africa and Asia, and with external partners (such as universities, CGIAR bodies and national agricultural research stations). Impact and success depend heavily on the “enabling environment” and therefore on policies and regulations. It is vital to work with and convince not only farmers of the benefits of potential new technologies, but also policymakers and other stakeholders. Recent results include the adoption of new fertilizer protocols in West African rice growing, and the release of improved bean varieties in Kenya. Both these changes improve farmers’ productivity and profitability.
While still a student, I worked for Syngenta in Switzerland and the UK, and enjoyed the company environment. Joining the Syngenta Foundation was an ideal further step. I came here straight after my PhD in plant physiology at the PSC. After a one-year internship, I became a Program Officer. My main motivation was to go “beyond publishing”, and really see research and results going all the way to potential beneficiaries. The Syngenta Foundation takes very pragmatic and promising approaches to achieve this. I can highly recommend working for a corporate foundation in the life sciences field.

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Dominik Klauser, Program Officer, Research and Development, Syngenta Foundation

Franziska Humair, Project leader, Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

I am employed by the Swiss Confederation. Initially I have been hired as the manager for biodiversity communication in the division of Species, Ecosystems, Landscapes Division. Soon after my start in communications, I have been appointed as the project leader for the development of the action plan to implement the Swiss biodiversity strategy. My work builds on the preliminary work of my colleagues who first developed the Swiss Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) with its long-term objective: “Biodiversity is rich and has the capacity to react to change. Biodiversity and its ecosystem services are conserved in the long term”. Second, they started the participative process where measures were defined in order to achieve the objectives of the SBS. Now it is my job to consolidate the respective action plan containing these measures, to make sure that documents necessary for public consultation are correctly prepared (i.e., information on new legal regulations necessary to put the action plan in practice, on costs to implement the measures, on the assessment of impacts of the implementation of the strategy for economy and society), and to maintain the dialogue about the implementation process within FOEN, but also between FOEN and different stakeholders. With regard to an impact at the interface of science and policy/science and society, I feel that I have the chance to move things – slowly but steadily – as well as to enhance networking and dialogue for a the most relevant issue for (human) life on earth: biodiversity!

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Franziska Humair, Project leader, Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

François Meienberg, Public Eye

François Meienberg is currently working for the Swiss NGO ‘Public Eye’ as a program coordinator with the focus on agriculture, intellectual property rights and biodiversity. His rather unusual and highly unique career path started off with an apprentice as a chemical laboratory technician at ETH Zurich. Subsequently he acquired the degree of a professional actor and performed in various theatres in Switzerland and Germany. Meanwhile being active on stage he founded – together with two friends – a new political party which was dedicated to environmental protection and life quality. It almost instantaneously became a considerable political force in the community Opfikon. In the following years François Meienberg gradually educated himself to the profound expertise he has today through diverse activities such as his political involvement, his positions as Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace and AKTE, his membership in the Swiss national FAO Committee and the long-term participation in Public Eye (since 1999) as a joint managing director as well as program coordinator. Being asked about his average working day he smiles and lists a number of activities performed today – indicating that one day barely resembles the other. His activities reach from developing, coordinating and conducting campaigns, meeting network partners and other stakeholders, generating/drafting factsheets, lobbying, attend conferences at national and international levels, to participating in awareness raising events of Public Eye’s regional (voluntary) groups. François Meienberg’s dedication for public eye’s mission to reveal issues caused by Swiss companies that conflict with human rights and sustainable resource use becomes very obvious as you hear him speak. Being able to break down complex issues to their core components and communicate them in correct and simple words he sees a crucial ability when being working in the science/policy/society interface. Furthermore, he emphasises on the dedication and enthusiasm required for successfully deliver one’s own message.

Zürich, 18.05.2010, Erklärung von Bern (EvB), François Meienberg, «Landwirtschaft, Biodiversität, Patente», Mitglied der Geschäftsleitung, Foto: Marion Nitsch

François Meienberg, Public Eye

Simon Briner Personal Scientific Assistant of the Director General, Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG)

Since 2013 I’m working for the Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG in Berne. Before I started with this job I wrote a PhD thesis in agricultural economics at ETH Zürich. In my research I modelled farms and farming structures in three mountainous regions of Switzerland and evaluated what impact changes in climate and the agricultural policy could have on the provision of different agro-ecosystem services in these regions. To set up the models applied in my thesis I had to collect a sound knowledge of agricultural production systems and how they relate to and are steered by agricultural policy. What I did during my PhD has some links what I’m doing currently. In the FOAG I work as a personal advisor to the director general. In this position, I am for example responsible for the preparation of information in the form of notes or presentations as well as for projects that mostly have a link to the future development of agricultural policy. For these tasks the knowledge gained during the PhD – links between economic decision making, working of natural systems und policy – is very helpful because makes it easier to understand what the impact of policy decision could be. This is then also where I see the most important interface between knowledge and policy: the provision of information that builds the base for sound decisions made in policy. If such information is provided in a way that is understandable also for non-experts this – in my opinion – can have a positive impact for policy development but also give a positive reputation for science.