Science policy advocacy is a vital part of being a scientist. Your research could make important contributions to the discovery of cures and treatments for debilitating diseases. You need to share that progress with your elected officials and the public. Not only do you have an interesting story to tell, you owe it to taxpayers who are funding your research.
Science advocates inform the non-science community about what the scientific community is doing and try to increase support for scientific research. It is certainly important to build support among elected officials in Congress, but it is also important to grow support for science in our own communities.
Traditionally, advocacy has meant going to Washington, DC to meet with elected officials. While that is still one part of advocacy, traveling to Washington is just one of many ways you can be an advocate for science.
Spending a day on Capitol Hill walking the halls of Congress is certainly rewarding, valuable, and fun. However, advocacy from home saves airfare, allows you to sleep in your own bed, and you introduce science to a whole new audience.
WHO should be an advocate?
Scientists at every career stage should share their passion for science with members of their community and with their elected officials. Senior investigators should encourage their students and also lead by example.
WHY be an advocate?
You have a compelling story to tell. Helping taxpayers and community leaders understand what research is being done with their tax money is critically important to maintain this funding. It’s also vital to expand the community of science supporters from just scientists to those who benefit from science. Most importantly, if you don’t do it, no one else will.
WHAT is advocacy?
Think of advocates as translators between science and policymakers and the public. They may like and support science, they probably don’t know much about science itself. Many are even more surprised to find out who scientists are (many young people of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities!) and what they do. Broadening the public understanding of and support for science is the most important work of science advocates.
WHERE is a good time to advocate?
Science advocacy can take place anywhere and takes as little (or as much) time as you have to give. You can chat someone up at the dog park. You can schedule a meeting with your elected officials. You can arrange to give a presentation about your research to a local civic organization.
WHEN can you advocate?
Advocacy can be personal, casual conversations, briefings to civic and community organizations, or formal meetings with government leaders
HOW should you advocate?
The most important tool every science policy advocate needs is a good two-minute speech that succinctly describes their research and field of study in a way nonscientists can understand. ASCB has tips on how to craft a good Two Minute Speech.
Once you have a good two-minute speech, you’re ready to begin. Advocates have several opportunities to share their message. The Advocacy Toolbox section of the ASCB website includes several Be an Advocate for Science how-to papers that provide important information on advocacy activities.
For help or advice on any advocacy activities, don’t hesitate to contract Kevin Wilson, ASCB’s Director of Public Policy and Media Relations.
Be sure to share your experiences with ASCB also.