Scientists’ voices are a crucial part of the policymaking process, both in “science for policy” (using scientific research to inform policy) and “policy for science” (policy that guides the scientific community and enterprise). Looking for ways to get involved? Here are a few places to start.
FIND ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES
The Local Science Engagement Network (LSEN) is a great way to start getting involved in advocacy. A new program at AAAS, LSEN builds, nurtures and guides local and state-based multi-disciplinary networks of scientists and science enthusiasts dedicated to elevating the role of science in evidence-based public policy. The LSEN platform is designed to guide you in getting started, making your plan and staying engaged. Sign up today!
Other groups like the Engaging Scientists & Engineers in Policy (ESEP) Coalition and National Science Policy Network (NSPN) host happy hours and events, all of which are opportunities to learn about advocacy to get involved in and connect with the science policy community.
The AAAS Policy Alert is a weekly e-newsletter provides an inside look at policies affecting science and technology and the S&T community to AAAS members. Each week, the alert includes an action item, which will highlight an opportunity for advocacy.
FIND AND CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Visit the GovTrack website and type your address to find your representative and senators, along with their contact information. Congressional offices keep track of constituent messages, and adding your voice to others’ can get an issue on a Congress member’s radar. Find statements and testimonies on issues that AAAS has weighed in on in the past here.
Meet with Members of Congress or Staffers
One of the most common ways to directly meet with policymakers is "Hill visit days" organized by scientific societies or advocacy organizations, where members can sign up to meet with their representatives in small groups on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. This is a great way to learn and practice advocacy. Organizations can also arrange to meet with policymakers in their home districts — check out this guide to preparing for district visits.
Social media and advocacy
A growing number of Congressional members are using social media, particularly Twitter, to engage with their constituents, though it varies widely member to member. Following your members on Twitter can allow you to see what they are up to, learn which issues are important to them, learn about what is going on in your district, and potentially advocate for issues by tweeting at the member or engaging with one of their tweets.
SUBMITTING COMMENTS ON PROPOSED RULES
Federal rulemaking is an important process that allows the White House and federal agencies to implement laws set forth by Congress or to set new policies and rules that can affect the use of science in policy, for example, regulations or policies that can impact the conduct of science or impose restrictions on student visas. In many of these cases, the government will publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register and solicit public comments over a period (typically 30-90 days).
This is an important opportunity for you to give your voice to the federal rulemaking process and while many societies — such as AAAS — do submit comments, it is equally important that your individual voice be a part of this democratic process.
ENGAGING IN FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEES
Another way to engage is to serve on federal scientific advisory committees or nominate colleagues to serve as advisors. Most federal agencies publish notices seeking nominations in the Federal Register. In addition, these federal agencies will publish dates for their public meetings in the Federal Register, so you can attend as appropriate. It is a good way to learn what issues scientific advisory committees are discussing.