Those interested in science advocacy usually head to Washington, DC to meet with their Representative or Senators in their Capitol Hill offices. What they forget is that Representatives and Senators have local district offices that are often a short distance away, certainly shorter that going to Washington. Visiting your Representative’s district office is an excellent way of directly communicating your concerns to your representative or one of their staffers. You can use the steps below to arrange your visit to the Hill, but you can also contact ASCB and we can help you with your visit.
STEP ONE: ARRANGE THE MEETING
- Find the right office. Every Member of Congress lists the physical addresses of their district offices on their public website. You may have to poke around a bit, but it’s there. If you can’t find it, just give them a call and ask. The staff will be happy to tell you locations and hours.
- Pick a day to go. Pick a day and time between 9-5 when as many of the members of your group can participate as possible.
- The person you speak with may suggest that you speak with a staffer.
- Expect that your Representative may be unavailable for a meeting, so you should be willing to speak with a staffer.
- Don’t be disappointed if this is the case because staffers are incredibly well-informed and can still help you establish a relationship within the office.
- Have multiple options for appointment times.
STEP TWO: PREPARE
- Make a plan before you go. If you are going with a group, have a meeting to review the below steps and divide up responsibilities.
- Decide your “ask” and make it relevant. To make your visit count, focus on what Congress is working on at that time that affects science. Issues are always changing, so make sure to keep yourself updated.
- Who speaks? Decide who you want to speak with and who from your group will talk. Assign speaking roles within your group so that individuals are prepared to cover the points they want to cover ahead of time. If you’re focusing on an issue that personally affects members of your group, then prioritize having them speak (if they are comfortable talking about it).
- Business Cards. If you have them, be sure to bring them. If you don’t have them, ask if your department will provide them. You may also be able to have a small supply printed for a small cost.
STEP THREE: AT THE OFFICE
- Arrive early. If you are not familiar with the area, you will need time to find their office. Once you locate the office, plan on arriving about 5 minutes early.
- Introduce yourselves. Begin by letting the receptionists know who you have a meeting with.
- Introduce yourselves and your group. Once you are escorted to meet with the Representative or staff member, start the meeting by identifying yourselves as constituents and scientists, researchers, etc. Explain your area or research. It is very likely that the person you are speaking to will not be an expert in your field, so make sure to explain your research in a way that will make sense to the average person. Anecdotes may be helpful.
- Describe your concern. Talk about how the issue affects you, your job, and/or the community at large. Make sure to share your “ask.”
- Identify future actions, including support for legislation or visits to your department or lab.
- Before you leave. Close the meeting by asking for contact information. Make sure you have shared your business card and that you have their card. Advocacy work is continuous, not a one-shot deal.
- Get a picture. Ask someone to take a picture of your group, especially if you are meeting with the Representative or Senator.
STEP FOUR: AFTER THE MEETING
- Thank You! Make sure to send a follow-up email to the people that you spoke to, thanking them and letting them know that you intend to remain active on this issue. Use this as an opportunity to reiterate your “Ask” in a concise way.
- Share your visit with colleagues, friends, family, and others. If you took a picture, post the picture on your social media or send it around in an email. Make sure to include your representative’s name, their social media tag, the issue that you discussed, and the results of your visit.
- Tell ASCB about Your visit – Share you experience and any information you gained. Be sure to tag @ASCBiology if you post about the meeting.
- Plan your next action! You can look at other ASCB advocacy action items to figure out how you can continue your advocacy work.
The ASCB has other “Be an Advocate for Science” how-to papers to help you be an advocate for science.