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Engaging Policymakers

AAAS Leshner Leadership fellows and three Congressional staff sit in a room with wood paneling and blue walls, discussing science policy on Capitol Hill.
AAAS Leshner Leadership Fellows talk with policymakers during a trip to Capitol Hill in 2018.

There are many ways for scientists to engage policymakers, including elected and appointed officials and staff, at local, state, and federal levels.

Before engaging, scientists should consider where and when they can most effectively engage in dialogue with policymakers. Policy making is a cyclical process and scientists can engage at every point during the cycle (Clayton and Culshaw, 2013):

  • Review evidence.
  • Identify policy options.
  • Appraise options.
  • Assess uncertainties and risks.
  • Choose an option.
  • Implement an option.
  • Monitor progress.

When preparing to engage policymakers:

  • Think about when and how your science is used.
  • Think about your "ask": what do you want the policymaker to do?
  • Consider overlapping goals or interests you and the policymaker share and how to discuss them.
  • Remember that if you meet with a policymaker, you may only have a few minutes to talk. Be prepared for a quick conversation!

For more about how to engage policymakers, see AAAS and other resources below.

AAAS Policy Engagement Programs & Resources

Training Programs:

  • AAAS Communicating Science workshops - The Engaging Policymakers workshop illuminates the policy landscape, illustrating where and how policy happens and the many roles scientists and engineers can play in decision-making.
  • AAAS Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) Workshop - This annual workshop is for students in science, technology, engineering, and math fields with limited experience and knowledge of science policy and advocacy who want to learn about the role of science in policy making, to introduce them to the federal policy making process, and to empower them with ways to become a voice for basic research throughout their careers.
  • Communicating With Policymakers Mini Workshop - This 45-minute mini workshop was recorded at the 2018 AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

Guides and Reports:

Engagement Opportunities:

  • AAAS Local Science Engagement Network (LSEN) - This grassroots engagement and advocacy platform nurtures and guides local and state-based science advocates in evidence-based public policy.
  • AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships - This program provides opportunities for outstanding scientists and engineers to learn first-hand about federal policymaking while using their knowledge and skills to address today’s most pressing societal challenges.

Policy Programs:

Resources for Engaging Policymakers