If you are a regular reader of this column — or even if this is your first time — you are without doubt aware of the dire situation science funding faces in this country. The bottom line is that federally funded research, which many feel is the key to improving our nation’s financial situation and the solution to many of the world’s challenges, is limited by financial constraints as our nation’s leaders grapple with a sluggish economy and crippling debt crisis.
Members of Congress across the political spectrum see value in investing in research and development and in agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. These agencies are easy to support, considering the public good that comes out of that research combined with the substantial positive economic effects that come from funding basic research. However, what was once a slam dunk for advocacy lately has been a tougher sell. “I’d love to increase the NIH budget … if we had more money to spend” is a line I hear often.
If you are a regular reader of this column, you’ve seen advice on how to talk to your elected representatives and reports on the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s efforts to change attitudes toward funding research. You’ve read quotes from students and faculty who have come to Washington, D.C., to advocate for NIH funding. Maybe you have thought about participating, if only you could afford to leave the classroom, lab or office for a three-day trip to Washington.
This summer, the Public Affairs Advisory Committee, the advocacy arm of the ASBMB, is challenging members nationwide to get involved. This being an election year, members of Congress will be spending much of August and October in their home districts meeting constituents and campaigning for votes. The time is right for members of the scientific community to meet with their representatives and talk about all the wonderful research that is going on in laboratories in members of Congress’ own backyards. Members of Congress focus on the issues their constituents consider important. The ASBMB wants to show Congress that there are literally thousands of researchers who think science funding is a vitally important issue for both the health and the economic future of our nation. However, we can only do that if our members are the ones doing the talking.
So here’s the challenge. Can we find 100 volunteers from the ASBMB membership who will meet with their representatives in their home district offices? The ASBMB public affairs staff will set up the meeting, provide you with background information and talking points, train you to communicate your science to a nonscientific audience, and even go with you to the meeting if that’s what you’d like. ASBMB public affairs staff will do as much (or as little) as you request to make your meeting a resounding success and to find converts among policymakers — converts who will come back to Washington energized and supportive of the scientific endeavor.
The question is this: Who will be the first volunteer?
Benjamin Corb (firstname.lastname@example.org) is director of public affairs at the ASBMB. Follow him on Twitter at @bwcorb.