News from the Hill

Advocates visit Capitol Hill

Benjamin Corb
May 1, 2019

Twenty undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students joined members of the Public Affairs Advisory Committee and public affairs staff to participate in the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s annual Hill Day on March 28, visiting their elected representatives to discuss Congress’ continued support for biomedical research.

Callan Callan Frye, a graduate student at the Medical University of South Carolina, shows his enthusiasm for advocacy at the ASBMB’s 2019 Hill Day. Courtesy of Callan Frye

Although President Donald Trump’s budget request for fiscal year 2020 called for 5 percent cuts to all science funding agencies in the government, the advocates were heartened by the warm reception they received. Martha Cyert, associate chair of biology at Stanford University, said, “It was encouraging to hear staffers share their support for my science and their understanding of the importance of basic research in helping to discover treatments for diseases. They really seem to get it.”

The agenda for this year’s Hill Day advocates focused largely on asking for increases in funding at the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. But the discussions with lawmakers and their staffs extended to issues beyond funding, indicating a Congress that has a nuanced understanding of and curiosity about how science works.

Kristine Deibler, a postdoc from the University of Washington, was surprised by some of the topics. “My senator’s staff was very direct and interested in hearing about my perspectives related to the issue of sexual harassment in science,” Deibler said. “I was so encouraged to see Congress paying such close attention to this very serious issue.”

This year’s advocates came from 24 states and conducted 83 meetings over the course of their day on the Hill. The student participants, selected from a pool of applicants by the ASBMB’s public affairs staff, arrived in Washington, D.C., the night before Hill Day for a crash course in being an advocate. PAAC members stayed through the following day for meetings with NIH and NSF leaders.

“This Hill Day experience is among the most rewarding opportunities that ASBMB (offers) for its members,” said Matt Gentry from the University of Kentucky, the outgoing PAAC chair. “ASBMB isn’t the only scientific society that holds events like this, but in my experience the organization and staff put on the best show by far.”

Gentry has been a member of the PAAC for five years and is a Hill Day veteran. For some, like Alex Blackburn, a Ph.D. student at the University of Idaho, this Hill Day was their first taste of advocacy.

“This was a very positive, very fun experience,” Blackburn said. “I got to meet really great people on both sides of the aisle. When I get back to Idaho, I look forward to telling my colleagues that they should consider getting involved themselves. I definitely would love to do this again.”

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Benjamin Corb

Benjamin Corb is the former director of public affairs at ASBMB.

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in Policy

Policy highlights or most popular articles

Groups step up to prevent student homelessness during academic breaks
News

Groups step up to prevent student homelessness during academic breaks

Aug. 13, 2022

Paying for summer and winter housing can shape a student’s future.

ASBMB weighs in on NIH diversity prize
Blotter

ASBMB weighs in on NIH diversity prize

Aug. 11, 2022

Society recommends that the agency reward underresourced institutions, among other guidance.

The CHIPS and Science Act becomes law
Blotter

The CHIPS and Science Act becomes law

Aug. 9, 2022

The ASBMB advocated for provisions within that support the STEM workforce and R&D.

Congress is starting to tackle student mental health
News

Congress is starting to tackle student mental health

July 29, 2022

In the pandemic’s wake, House bills push for better campus health services.

ASBMB backs bills to bolster minority-serving institutions
Blotter

ASBMB backs bills to bolster minority-serving institutions

July 21, 2022

One would invest defense funds in HBCUs; other would support Latino college enrollment and completion.

States and localities pump more money into community colleges than four-year campuses
Education

States and localities pump more money into community colleges than four-year campuses

July 9, 2022

Politicians restore funding for institutions that conduct workforce training and favor free community college programs