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Tips for Working With Congress

Meeting with a member of Congress or staff is a critical opportunity to address issues confronting biomedical research. Below are some tips that will help you effectively convey your points and conduct a successful meeting.

BEFORE YOUR MEETING

  1. Gather intelligence in advance. Contact ASBMB to find out science funding information for your state/district, and visit the member’s website to learn what committees the member is on, whether they have specific issues they are interested in, and what their background is.
  2. Find a civics refresher. You may need to brush up on how bills move through Congress. One straightforward graphic is here
  3. Keep the Congressional calendar in mind. If you want to meet with your member in your state or district, check the Congressional calendar to make sure that Congress is not in session.
  4. Practice talking about your science. It is your responsibility as a scientist to effectively explain your research. Remember that members and staff are mostly generalists. Do not assume prior scientific knowledge, but do not treat the people you are meeting with like they are uneducated.
  5. Be on time and get to the point. Like you, members of Congress and their staff are busy. Do your best to be on time and keep the conversation on topic. 

 

DURING YOUR MEETING

  1. Members of Congress and staff are intelligent, hard working, and dedicated to public service. Conducting a meeting with respect will get a much better response than if you try to make demands or talk down to them.
  2. Treat a meeting with staff the same as you would the same with the member of Congress. The majority of meetings are with staff. They provide critical direction to their bosses about how to vote on specific issues, giving them significant influence on policy decisions.
  3. Leave your political opinions at the door. Negative comments about politics, politicians or political parties will not win any friends or advance the cause you are in the office to discuss.
  4. Clearly state what you are asking for. Make sure the representative or staff member understands what you want Congress to do. ASBMB’s <link>legislative talking points</link> has examples of specific actions to be discussed.
  5. Make sure you discuss all of your talking points. Use ASBMB’s Congressional meeting talking points to make sure you say everything you want to say in your meeting.
  6. Appreciate the need to compromise. In a difficult political and financial climate, you may not get everything you are asking for. Show that any progress is appreciated, but encourage the office to do more.
  7. Thank the office for their support. Everyone likes being appreciated, and thanking friendly offices for past support is the best way to ensure future support.
  8. Repeat your most important message one last time. Make sure one last time the office knows what you are asking for.


AFTER YOUR MEETING

  1. Send a thank you note. Thank the member or staff for their time and reiterate your main talking points.
  2. Send additional information. If any questions came up during your meeting that you couldn't answer, contact ASBMB to help find the answers and then send the information to the office.


These rules and suggestions are based on Bill Wells’ "17 Cardinal Rules for Working With Congress," from Working with Congress: A Practical Guide for Scientists and Engineers.




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