December 21, 2017
Science took center stage in recent interactions between researchers and policymakers. Across the nation, biological scientists and educators met with their lawmakers as part of the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event, an initiative organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS).
More than 200 scientists registered to participate in the event.
This nationwide event provides a platform for meetings between scientists and their elected officials in their local area rather than in Washington, DC or a state capital, and allows lawmakers to learn first-hand about the science and research facilities in their district.
"This annual event is an excellent opportunity for biologists to help inform public policy related to our science," said Dr. Robert Gropp, Co-Executive Director of AIBS. "Meeting personally with an elected official or their staff continues to be the most effective way to help policymakers understand science, including the resources, facilities and people required to conduct research."
Scientists participating in the event discussed the importance of life sciences research with the individuals responsible for casting the votes that shape federal and state science policy. Participants ranged from graduate students to senior researchers.
Representative Esty tours an entomology lab in Connecticut.
"I met with staff from Senator Whitehouse's office. We talked for about 45 minutes about funding for science and science education, with emphasis on working with undergraduates as research partners in classroom and field settings," said Mary Baker, Director of Environmental Studies at Rhode Island College. "I wanted to highlight the unexpected: not labs and white coats, but class projects that are meaningful science. I discussed examples from my campus and shared stories of two students I have worked with. I really enjoyed the meeting."
The 9th annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits were made possible by AIBS, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Plant Taxonomists, American Society of Primatologists, Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Helminthological Society of Washington, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and event supporter Society of Nematologists.
Participants in the event were prepared for their meetings during an interactive training webinar. The program provided information about how best to communicate science to non-technical audiences and tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official.
Highlights of the event include:
- Representative Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) toured labs at Western Connecticut State University and learned about research on prevention of tick-borne diseases.
- The Arthur and Kriebel Herbaria at Purdue University hosted Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN).
- Senator Steven Daines (R-MT) visited a kombucha production facility, where the staff microbiologist provided a tour.
- Missouri state Senator Denny Hoskins (R) toured a newly renovated science building at the University of Central Missouri.
- A graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley organized a lab tour for staff for Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ro Khanna (D-CA).
- New York state Assemblymember David Buchwald (D) visited an environmental research center at Fordham University.
- Office meetings took place with Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and state Representative Joyce McDonald (R-WA) and state Delegate Nick Rush (R-VA).
- Staff for U.S. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) toured a primatology research lab at Trinity University. Smith chairs the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
- Tours for congressional staff took place in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and Utah.
- Additional meetings took place in Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
More information about the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is available at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html.
Organizations interested in sponsoring the 2018 event should contact Dr. Robert Gropp at 202-628-1500 x 250.
The next opportunity for biologists to meet with their lawmakers will take place in Washington, DC in April 2018. Learn more at https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionalvisitsday.html.