Advocacy town hall

Published April 03 2017

This year, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s Public Affairs Advisory Committee is trying something new at the 2017 ASBMB Annual Meeting in Chicago — an advocacy town hall. The past 12 months have seen many upheavals, mainly in the form of the 2016 election and its aftermath. The scientific enterprise has been caught up in the upheavals as well, with President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and his administration’s handling of issues such as the Affordable Care Act, climate change and vaccine safety.

In light of these events, it is fair to assume that there is a renewed interest in science policy and the impact that Washington, D.C., is having on the scientific enterprise. To help those interested in understanding better how the government’s decisions affect science, we have taken that old slogan, “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers,” to heart in designing an open-ended town hall.

The PAAC put together a panel of experts who are prepared to answer your questions and provide insights on the topics and issues that are of greatest importance to you. The PAAC chair, Wes Sundquist from the University of Utah, will update attendees on the ASBMB’s efforts on sustaining the biomedical enterprise. Michael Lauer, the deputy director of extramural research at the National Institutes of Health, will answer grant policy questions. As the public affairs director for the ASBMB, I work regularly on the front lines of science policy as your voice to policy makers, so I too will be on the panel.

The town hall will start with brief presentations from Sundquist, Lauer and me, but the rest of the event will be driven by the questions you bring to us. Have questions over how a specific piece of legislation will affect your lab, or how the community is working to improve training for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers? Bring them! Have concerns over funding levels and pay lines? Bring them, too!

Besides your questions, we also will discuss how the ASBMB does advocacy on behalf of its members and what role you can play in these efforts. We will discuss our annual August advocacy campaign, which brings scientists to their elected state officials. We will describe the resources with which the ASBMB can provide you to help you be the best advocate you can be. For example, we can gather data to support your case and give you online training tools designed specifically with the scientist in mind.

With our event scheduled just days after the countrywide March for Science, we hope you will bring your energy and enthusiasm to this session and learn how we can help you to continue to have your voice heard in the U.S. Congress year-round. We want to build on the energy from the March for Science events and turn that energy into action.

Not able to attend the meeting? We’ll have some people cover the event on Twitter as it unfolds, so even if you’re not in Chicago, you’ll be able to participate online. Search for the hashtag #PolicyTownHall. You will be able to follow the conversation and ask questions to panelists.

This is the first time the ASBMB has designed an interactive advocacy event like this during the annual meeting. We’re hoping your enthusiastic participation will help us to ensure that this event becomes a staple at ASBMB annual meetings.

The advocacy town hall will be at 12:30 p.m., April 24 in room W184d in McCormick Place.

Benjamin Corb Benjamin Corb is director of public affairs at ASBMB. Follow him on Twitter.