Last Thursday SfN members gathered in Washington, D.C. to meet with almost 90 different legislators to advocate for science funding. SfN members included graduate students, senior faculty, and international industry representatives, all joined by the knowledge that if we don’t ask for increased science funding we will never receive it.
Our Hill Day started with training Wednesday night where I heard the best piece of advice from the whole event. Dan Smith, founder and president of AdvocacySmiths, said of his time working as staff for Senator Tom Harkin, “My best meetings were the ones with no follow up.” He could easily forget about whatever they asked for, because it was a one time issue. He stressed the importance of not just speaking with legislators, but following up with them.
We reviewed what our groups would be asking for. All members were sending a unified message: to increase NIH funding by $2 billion for fiscal year 2018 and an additional $2 billion for fiscal year 2019, and to give NSF $8 billion dollars in 2018, $8.45 billion in 2019. We were also asking for the money allocated for BRIAN initiative to be released and for our budget to return to “regular order” instead of continued resolution. This would allow NIH to fully fund already awarded grants and know their budget for the year.
As I started my group’s meeting with Ohio Senators and Representatives I tried to remember all the advice we had been given. Make a personal connection, be passionate, and remind them “We cannot afford to not afford this.” Our group talked about our current work. We discussed how neuroscience work will help fight the opioid epidemic in Ohio and how PTSD research helps veterans. @rredondo was even able to speak about NIH being the current diamond for basic science research that international industries depend on.
My group met with 5 staff members, all of whom were very receptive. NIH funding is one of the few bipartisan issues left in today’s politics. We may not have had to fight anyone on this topic, but we did ask for what we needed. Even if someone is in favor, it is important to let them know what it is you need. If they are against it, use this as a time to educate them. I had a chance to meet with Stacy Barton in Rep. Steve J Chabot’s office. She had worked with SfN for 6 months previously and has a daughter with autism. Her life experiences taught her to value science funding, but we were able to provide her with the facts, figures, and stories to make her case to others. It is vital that we continue to advocate for this cause.
I encourage all of you to continue to advocate for NIH and NSF funding. If you were able to participate in the virtual Hill Day, great! Remember that one call is not enough. Follow up, thank them for their time, and remind them of their promises. Politicians work for YOU, the constituent. If you haven’t reached out yet, consider calling, emailing, tweeting, or visiting your representatives office. Find your representative here. And use the tools and resources SfN has provided for you here to make your case. Help your Congressmen help you.
Thank you to everyone who spoke out last week! Our work is just beginning.