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Early Careers Policy Ambassadors Live Chat


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Join the ECPA Live Chat | December 5, 12:00 PM ET

In this live chat, you’ll learn more about the SfN Early Career Policy Ambassadors Program, a year-long program for early career scientists interested in science policy and advocacy. Hear from SfN’s Grassroots Advocacy Specialist as well as current and former ECPAs about the application process and their experiences in the program.

Learn more about the ECPA Program.


Facilitators

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Adam M. Katz
Adam Katz is a Grassroots Advocacy Specialist at the Society for Neuroscience. He previously was a Policy and Advocacy Specialist at Research!America. Katz’s main research interests lie in neural plasticity. He received his undergraduate degree in Brain and Cognitive Science from the University of Rochester and his Master’s in Policy and Advocacy from Georgetown University.

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Ellen Wann, PhD
Ellen Wann is a neuroscience advocacy fellow at the Society for Neuroscience. She was previously a PhD student in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine and a 2016 Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Ambassador. Wann’s doctoral research focused on studying brain activity and blood flow changes after stroke. She received her bachelors in neuroscience and statistics from St. Olaf College and her PhD from the University of California, Irvine.


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  • 1 month later...

Hi Everyone. We’re going to get started in a few minutes, please feel free to start submitting questions - I know we’re all looking forward to the conversation today. Thanks for joining us today!

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The ECPA program is the perfect opportunity for those just getting started in science advocacy as well as those of you looking to refine your advocacy and communication skills. The program kicks off with ECPA’s traveling to Washington, DC for SfN’s Annual Hill Day, which includes advocacy training. The program is structured to involve regular calls with your “class” and with SfN staff to continue discussions and provide policy updates over the course of the year (and ideally after your year in the program ends). There are also several resources available through Neuronline that are linked to this live chat that I hope you will check out! Finally, if you have more specific questions, feel free to reach out to the advocacy team directly by emailing advocacy@sfn.org.

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Hi - thanks for hosting this! I’m wondering:

  1. what does the program look for in applicants?
  2. how has the program influence career trajectories or opportunities if last participants?
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Thanks for the question, @cmc495. I’ll take the first part of the question and let @ewann address the second.

The eligibility criteria (undergraduate/post-baccalaureate engaging in neuroscience research, a graduate student, or you received your MD or PhD in the last 10 years) will be considered regardless of your future career plans. We do also look at your scientific accomplishments, bearing in mind your career stage. Further, we consider the completeness and practicality of your proposed projects as important factors.

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Thanks for your question, @cmc495! The ECPA program affords opportunities to learn about science policy, how to advocate, and the budget process affecting science. Influencing policy through advocacy is one of many ways to pursue science policy. PhD scientists, like myself, are involved in many facets of science policy from influencing policymaking to contributing to the policymaking (e.g., staff members of Members of Congress) to implementing policy (e.g., working for a governmental agency). The ECPA program was critical for me to meet and start to build relationships with policymakers. It also connected me with other similar minded scientists, which I was later able to collaborate with in learning about science policy and improving my advocacy efforts.

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Good question, and one we receive quite often. While you don’t have to be a US citizen to be an advocate for neuroscience research or biomedical research funding, it is particularly impactful if you advocate to your elected officials when you engage with the US Congress or other policymakers. However, Members of Congress want to hear about what’s going on in their districts and states even if you aren’t eligible to vote for them. For advocating outside the US, we are happy to help connect you with our partners at the International Brain Research Organization, the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, or your national organization.

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Submitted question

What activities have past ambassadors organized and implemented, and which did they find the most successful?

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Some past activities include presenting advocacy materials at a luncheon or meeting on various opportunities their colleagues can get involved. Other ECPAs have authored op-eds, hosted lab tours, organized letter-writing campaigns, and more – all with pretty good success. I know that we have some previous and current ECPAs in the room, so I’ll let people chime in and add to this short list.

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@carla.golden- As an ECPA, I held an in district meeting with my Representative who I was initially able to meet with at Hill Day. I later shared my experiences from Hill Day and in district meeting with a professional development student organization in my graduate program. Additionally, I wrote a blog post about the importance of basic research as a foundation for pursuing translational research. One of the most fun activities I hosted as an ECPA was a science café. We had early career scientists including myself present about their research and invited our elected officials to see the kind of research being completed locally.

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Maya Sapiurka

Thanks for your question @cmc495! As someone who worked with the 2017 ECPA class, I can give you a few tips for your application. One of the most important things to remember is that the activities you propose should be focused on advocacy rather than outreach. It’s great to see that so many applicants are involved in Brain Awareness Week and educational outreach, but your proposed activities should focus on advocating for science rather than educating the public.

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As @akatz mentioned, the activities can range from being very local at the school or the community to participating in Capitol Hill Day meetings. Some of the local activities include writing and publishing Op-Eds in local newspapers in collaboration with SfN communication specialists, inviting elected officials for lab tours or to speak to a group of scientists, circulating action alerts about pertinent topics to fellow scientists and encouraging them to reach out to their representatives to support certain measures vis-a-vis support for biomedical research. Personally, I have also been able to host policy professionals to speak at my school regarding the federal budget process and how funding for science is allocated, for instance. It’s really what you make of your tenure as an ECPA, with the ultimate goal of engaging more scientists and legislators in sustained bidirectional dialogue and energizing more scientists to get involved in advocacy. At the national level, Capitol Hill Day meetings are very particularly rewarding because we get to give voice to science and the scientists whose combined voice we represent when we speak for sustained support for biomedical research.

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Do you hold meetings with your international partners to compare methologies used to stimulate interest and funding in neuroscience . Are they being successful ? Any feedback from countries in Latin America and the Caribbean

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This is question I get all of the time. It depends on what’s going on in Congress and what is needed by the research community. On any given day an advocate may have a meeting with Congressional Staff (or a member of Congress), make a phone call, meet with coalition partners and strategize, help organize a lab tour, educate others on the need for sustained advocacy efforts, and more. As part of the ECPA program you’ll come to Washington for an advocacy training and SfN’s Annual Hill Day in March. It’s important to note though that in order to maximize our efforts and have our collective voices heard we need to not only advocate in DC but at home as well.

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Thanks, @Jaadeja. For advocating outside the US, we rely on our international partners, namely the International Brain Research Organization and the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, as well as various national organizations. On our Government and Public Affairs Committee, we have two liaisons who update us regularly on advocacy activities that the Canadian Association for Neuroscience and the Mexico City SfN Chapter engage in (and update the group on their national science landscape). This is in addition to input and updates from other international members of our committee.

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In the past, I have received concerns about the amount of time commitment required for the ECPA program and hesitations about approaching advocacy.

The ECPA program was designed to be extracurricular and didn’t require excessive time away from my experiments and teaching load.

The ECPA program makes advocacy more accessible and mentors scientists in how to approach advocacy. I found Hill Day meetings enjoyable in part because SfN sends a group of scientists together. Taking a group of scientists of varying career stages into a Congressional meeting allows a policymaker to see many perspectives and makes advocacy more approachable.

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@ewann makes a great point, this is an opportunity to see if you like science advocacy and if it’s a career path you’d like to explore later in the future while continuing your studies.

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No experience is required for consideration/application. We do consider your history of leadership activities and accomplishments outside of the lab, but they do not necessarily need to be science policy or advocacy-oriented. We are more interested in the appropriateness and practicality of your planned advocacy activities.

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Is the ECPA program for those who plan to stay in academia and advocate for science or for those who plan careers away from the bench?

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Someone earlier in the chat mentioned that projects should support bidirectional communication with legislators, but it seems that many of the projects that have been described here focus on conveying to legislators why science is important. Are there examples of projects that focus more on the other direction, working to understand legislators’ needs and connect them to applicable research? Would projects along those lines be applicable for this program? Thank you!

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ECPAs are scientists who are looking to advocate for science in time outside of lab.
For science to be prioritized in a future with limited funding resources, all scientists need to be advocates regardless of career plans.

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During Hill Day, In District meetings, and other events, communication is bidirectional because the scientist has a conversation with the legislator. The meeting is intended to initiate a relationship in which the policymaker or staff member can follow up with future questions. The key is that all of these activities are intended to build relationships.

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Thanks all for joining us today. Though the “live” part of this chat is coming to a close, please feel free to continue posting questions here and we’ll respond to them as we can, or to email us at advocacy@sfn.org. Don’t forget, applications are due on January 19, 2018 and we look forward to seeing the selected ambassadors in DC for our Hill Day in March! If you or someone you know should apply, please do and send them to www.sfn.org/ecpa as well as this page for additional information. Remember, while you don’t need to be an active SfN Member to apply, you will need to renew your membership before formally accepting a spot in the program.

Best of luck and we look forward to reviewing your applications!
Adam

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@cmc495, @ewann is right - these conversations help to inform future activities and advocacy efforts based on not only topics of conversation, but interests of the policymaker that become clear through ongoing dialogue.

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