The chair of Research!America’s board of directors, John Edward Porter, tells Chemical & Engineering News that he began college with the aspiration of becoming an engineer or scientist. As fate would have it, he turned his focus instead to pursuing a law degree. He never lost his passion for science, though. That passion is evident in his efforts as a champion for research while in Congress and in his work with Research!America. Now he is charging scientists to take on a broader role in science advocacy.
In an era of flat-funded budgets and sequestration, Porter says it’s important for scientists to engage more with policy makers, most of whom are lawyers by trade. Porter acknowledges that engaging with the public and taking on the role of an advocate may be very uncomfortable and unnatural to scientists, but it is a vital step to ensuring the U.S. maintains a position of world leadership. To be an effective advocate doesn’t mean scientists only have to ask for more money; advocacy and engagement can be accomplished through a range of activities.
Porter offers a number of concrete advocacy activities that may be a more natural fit for scientists. Educating both policymakers and the public about the work you do can happen without leaving your district. Invite your representatives to take a tour of the lab, speak at a local community event or school and explain the importance of the research that is happening in their backyards. You can also write a letter to the editor or op-ed for your local paper and contact your representatives directly through emails, phone calls, in-person meetings and volunteer to serve on a scientific advisory board for a local candidate. Read the full article online.