In early April, Biophysical Society members Craig Jolley, Montana State University, Erin Sheets, University of Minnesota, Duluth, and Sabina Kupershmidt, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, joined with more than 250 scientists, engineers and business leaders who made visits on Capitol Hill as part of the sixteenth “Science-Engineering-Technology-Congressional Visits Day (CVD).” The purpose of the visits was to express support for funding federal research and development programs and to discuss the important economic impacts on our economy of such programs. The participants also had the opportunity to learn about the federal budget for science agencies and the appropriations panel from a panel of speakers that included representatives from the White House, Capitol Hill, and the AAAS.
Participant Craig Jolley agreed to share his perspective on the day:
“For me, the biggest surprise was how nice people were. I’d honestly expected to get blown off by a bunch of impatient, uninterested people, but the staffers we met with were all very positive and gave us their undivided attention, even if the meetings were short. In some cases, we talked to people who really seemed to have a deep understanding of the role of the federal government in American science; the staffers who were newer to these issues still seemed eager to learn about how the government’s commitment to research affects their districts. The atmosphere on Capitol Hill is very different from the more laid-back environment of a university research lab– the culture at Montana State is fairly egalitarian and it was eye-opening to spend time in a place where the efforts of thousands of people were dedicated to supporting and influencing the decision-making process of a much smaller group. I also really enjoyed the panel discussion with former Rep. Sherwood Boehlert; he put things in a longer-term perspective (as only a retired politician can) and motivated us to make dialogue between scientists and elected officials a long-term habit. I suspect that the combination of exposure and practical advice will affect the way I think about and approach the science/government relationship for some time to come.”