August 2013

Turning controversy into action

High-profile science controversies such as the Supreme Court’s ruling on patents on complementary DNA and the release of the draft High Quality Research Act have left some scientists concerned about how well government officials understand science and how science is done. While it may be easy to lament these turns of events, the reality is that science-related controversies offer crucial opportunities for scientists to speak up, join the public conversation and try to steer public opinion and policy in a direction that favors research.
Having the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government full of career scientists might yield policy decisions that are more agreeable to researchers, but a large influx of scientists into our government is not on the horizon. Thus, high-ranking government officials will continue to depend on scientists and their advocates to communicate the vital aspects of science and its administration. The justices of the Supreme Court are not experts in biology, yet they will continue to be asked to rule on the legality of various aspects of biological research. Most U.S. senators and representatives never have applied for research grants; however, they still are tasked with oversight of science-funding agencies and their granting practices.

Get involved

Are you interested in meeting with your elected representatives to discuss the issues confronting biological and biomedical research today? The ASBMB is continuing its August meeting campaign, and you can take part!

  • Step 1: E-mail Ben Corb, the ASBMB director of public affairs, at to express your desire to meet with your elected representatives during the August recess.
  • Step 2: Complete a very short district-meeting questionnaire.
  • Step 3: Contact the offices of your elected representatives to set up meetings or have an ASBMB representative set them up for you.
  • Step 4: Receive ASBMB meeting materials that will ensure your meetings are a success!
  • Step 5: Conduct your meetings and begin fruitful, long-lasting relationships with those offices.

To see how other district meetings have gone, check out these testimonials from last year’s class of at-home advocates.

If we are to improve the environment for conducting research in this nation, then the gene patent ruling, the HQRA and other such events should illustrate that science communication must be a constant process that continually improves upon itself. In legal cases, scientists must continue to teach their advocates not only about the nuances of basic science but also about how to communicate those nuances effectively to judges and justices. In Congress, scientists must continue to inform lawmakers about the importance of science and how science is conducted as well as how to write legislation that benefits the scientific enterprise instead of damaging it.
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology works exhaustively on behalf of its members to engage the federal government at multiple levels to improve the working environment for scientists. But we can’t do this alone. To improve the public’s and government’s understanding of science, we need your help! You, the constituent, have the ear of your elected representatives to inform them of the important scientific research in your district and state. You, the neighbor, have the unique opportunity to discuss scientific progress with the people you live near and see every day. The scientific community needs you, the scientist, to step forward and fulfill the important roles of science communicator and advocate.

Photo of Chris PickettChris Pickett ( is the science policy fellow at the ASBMB. Follow his postings on the ASBMB Policy Blotter.

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