Biophysical Society Bulletin | October 2020
Lessons Learned on Capitol Hill (During a Pandemic)
Say yes to opportunities outside the job description. One of my favorite memories of my fellowship was the night I stayed late in the office to answer the phone during a telephone town hall, even though the job of answering phones is usually reserved for interns. It was a rapid-fire night, speaking to a new constituent every minute and entering their information into the system. Though stressful, this was a great opportunity to hear directly from the constituents what they were concerned about. I gained new perspective onmy job and felt an even greater connection to the people we were working for. Advocate locally. Many scientists think that advocacy means writing to your member of Congress and asking them to increase funding for NIH and other research institutions. This is critically important, but in a moment where Congress is very supportive of the research budget, think about what other policies you can advocate for and what audiences you want to reach. Through- out this pandemic we have seen the difference that strong local and state governments can have, and individuals can have a huge impact by getting involved at this level. Scientists have the opportunity to use their data analysis and critical thinking skills to advocate for data-driven policy change. For example, did your city pledge to uphold the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord? Ask your local representatives if they are still upholding that commitment. Are you looking to see social justice reform in your community? Research the policies that work, and advocate for their incorporation in your community or your department. Now, more than ever, it is essential that scientists make their voices heard in the public sphere. I hope the lessons I’ve learned during this tumultuous year on Capitol Hill can help guide you in
I think it is safe to say that any Congressional Fellowship year is full of unexpected surprises. But this year, even seasoned staffers had to admit that 2020 has been unlike any other on Capitol Hill. While I am, of course, disappointed that I didn’t get to finish out my fellowship year withmy colleagues inmy office, the experi- ence working on health policy during a global pandemic taught me some key lessons that I will never forget. Roll with the punches. The pandemic put a pause on almost every piece of legislation and project that I had been working on during my fellowship. Rather than being disappointed, I saw this as an opportunity to get a glimpse into policymaking beyond the traditional job description of a Congressional health policy staff member. I had regular phone calls with hospitals, nursing homes, food banks, and state government officials, and I communicated their needs directly to the Department of Agriculture, FEMA, and the Department of Defense. More than ever, it was our job to work in close coordination with stakeholders tomake sure that the needs of our constituents were being met in federal policy. This work gave me perspective into how local leaders and federal agencies operate that I could not have otherwise appreciated. Know how and when to deliver your message. Most scientists know that clear, effective communication is key when giving a re- search talk or submitting a grant proposal. In the policy world, this is evenmore essential, and you often have very little time to craft your message. While policymakers do have time to thoroughly research and write their proposed legislation, the end product must be distilled into a simple one-page summary, a single tweet, or a few sentences in an email to a key staffer. Knowing when to deploy each of these tactics makes a huge difference inmoving your policy forward.
your own work. — Leah Cairns
The Biophysical Society is grateful to its Industry Partners.
For Industry Partner Membership information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
T H E N E W S L E T T E R O F T H E B I O P H Y S I C A L S O C I E T Y
Made with FlippingBook Ebook Creator