Be a hometown science advocate

Published May 01 2018

This is an exciting time for science. Scientists are running for office in record numbers and are making their voices heard through emails, petitions and phone calls to Washington, D.C. Our members lobbied Congress during last month’s Capitol Hill Day, and thousands participated in the second annual March for Science.

While many efforts focus on federal advocacy, local activism is also crucial. Policies enacted in statehouses and city halls can have major impacts on research institutes within their jurisdictions. To focus on garnering support for life science research at the local and state level, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is launching its Advocacy Training Program. And we are searching for 10 scientists to be the first ASBMB ATP delegates to cultivate the energy of local grassroots science advocacy.

This nationwide six-month externship will provide hands-on science policy and advocacy training and experience, beginning in June. Delegates will first complete a digital advocacy training course to equip them to build and support local sustainable science advocacy activities. In this informal training phase, the program will provide a substantial overview of the advocacy landscape and how to navigate it.

Through the summer, delegates will join bimonthly hour-long conference calls on specific policy topics. Before each call, they will receive curated materials to read and watch, such as those produced by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. ASBMB public affairs staff, sometimes with a guest expert, will underscore specific points before facilitating an open discussion of these topics, similar to discussions that take place in scientific journal clubs. Potential topics include how science agencies such as the National Institutes of Health make policies, how Congress passes laws and budgets, and what effective advocacy looks like. Delegates also will complete homework assignments to prepare them to meet with their state and local representatives in August.

And they will not stop there. From September until December, delegates will develop and carry out an advocacy calendar tailored to their specific regions. They will learn how to recruit like-minded scientists and identify allies who will assist in and amplify their advocacy efforts. Through this program, scientists will become trained science advocates, will develop and contribute to local science advocacy efforts, and will build a regional network of grassroots and professional science advocates.

We are looking for passionate scientists who seek new opportunities in advocacy. We recognize that the course is intensive, and we expect delegates to commit about two hours a week to this endeavor. Whether you are an undergraduate passionate about science education, a member of your institution’s science policy group or a scientist looking to increase diversity in your lab, this program may be the right fit for you. The ATP does not require you to leave your lab for a prolonged period, and it will provide you with the training and support required to become the tip of the spear in our advocacy efforts.

Our goal is to have one ASBMB delegate from every state able to provide up-to-date local intel on relevant policy issues and plug into their local network to amplify the ASBMB’s national advocacy campaigns. We hope our inaugural class of ATP delegates will not only participate in our programs but also help us to develop and strengthen the ATP for the next class.

Please go to the ATP webpage to learn more about the program and to apply to become a 2018 ATP delegate. If you have any questions about the application or the program, email us at Public Affairs.

Daniel Pham Daniel Pham is the public affairs manager at the ASBMB.