18 May 2022

She's Back! Meet Bethany Johns: New AAS Deputy Director of Public Policy and Interim Acting Director

Bethany Johns

Bethany Johns American Astronomical Society (AAS)


Hello, I am Bethany Johns, the AAS Deputy Director of Public Policy and Interim Acting Director. You may remember me as the 2010–2012 John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow. The fellowship was a very impactful and meaningful experience for me. In the years since, I have remained devoted to the vision of the AAS: to create a world where all people value and benefit from a scientific understanding of our universe. I have strategically chosen to work with many different types of organizations to gain a broad set of skills and experience while maintaining a strong commitment to my roots in astronomy.  

After my term as the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow, I consulted with the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the premier trade association of over 70 businesses at the forefront of commercial aerospace. I facilitated opportunities for scientists to use commercial platforms for scientific research and worked directly with federal agencies to create new research and technology funding opportunities. I look forward to continuing relationships with industry as we work together to mitigate the impacts of large satellite constellations on astronomy. 

My next challenge was to unify the diverse agricultural science community to develop strategic priorities for agricultural research and federal funding. Sound familiar? It should — the astronomical sciences have been at the forefront of producing the gold standard for scientific advice to the government with the astronomical decadal surveys. The Supporters of Agriculture Research hired me to lead a comprehensive study specifically because of my experience with multiple astronomical decadal surveys. Advocacy for the Astronomy and Planetary Decadal Surveys has already begun at the AAS, and the new Solar Physics Decadal is just getting started. The next decade will be an incredible time to engage with the AAS and policy makers to advocate for science. 

I am also very proud to have led opportunities to improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for students, educators, and researchers. I researched, wrote, and advocated for legislative language in the Senate U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S 1260) and the House COMPETES Act of 2022 (HR 4521) authorization bills to create a new program in the National Science Foundation to support research capacity at historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions. This new program would help fulfill many of the recommendations in the recent astronomy and planetary decadal surveys on supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the profession. 

I care very deeply about supporting my friends and colleagues who are on the leading edge of astronomical research, innovation, and scholarship. I feel like I’m back home, but I’ve never been that far away. In all my work, I have always kept AAS near to my heart. You are welcome to contact me if you are interested in opportunities in science policy. Connect with me via LinkedIn or Twitter @DrBethanyJohns

I look forward to meeting you at the 240th meeting of the AAS in Pasadena, CA. Make sure you mark your calendars for all the policy and advocacy sessions, including: 

  • Monday, 13 June, 1:00–3:30 pm PT, Addressing the Impact of Satellite Constellations on Astronomy: The Pathway Forward in Cypress 
  • Monday, 13 June, 2:00–3:30 pm PT, Session 128: AAS Policy Advocacy for Astro2020 in Ballroom F