APS News

February 2019 (Volume 28, Number 2)

News from the APS Office of Government Affairs

2018: OGA Worked with APS Members to Effectively Advance Science

By Tawanda W. Johnson

The APS Office of Government Affairs (OGA) worked with APS members throughout 2018 to successfully advocate for physics and physicists, and to amplify their voices for science.

OGA facilitated more than 4,000 APS member contacts with Congress—through op-eds in key states and districts, emails, meetings, tweets, and phone calls—to advance the interests of the physics community. In particular, the office worked with APS members who authored opinion pieces that appeared in various media outlets in key states across the country including: Kristan Corwin (Kansas); Shua Sanchez (Washington); Justin Powell (Tennessee); Mike Tamor (Arizona); Don Q. Lamb (Illinois); and Sarit Dhar (Alabama).

Of particular note in 2018, OGA collected more than 1,300 signatures on a petition that successfully opposed the PROSPER (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform) Act, which would have decreased the quality and accessibility of student loans. Students delivered the petition to key senators in their states.

Bridge Program students and U.S. Rep.

APS Bridge students Dylan Smith (far left); Milchelle Lollie (third from left); and Brian Zamarripa Roman (far right) were all smiles during their 2018 meeting with former U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10th).

“We are proud of the work OGA is doing to help our members make a difference in achieving policy goals that strengthen the scientific enterprise,” said APS Chief Government Affairs Officer Francis Slakey.

Throughout 2018, OGA surveyed APS members at meetings to determine the issues that the physics community was most concerned about, and OGA developed strategies to respond to their needs.

  • Federal Research Funding: In an ongoing effort to achieve sustained and robust support for federal science agencies, OGA working with APS members, and coordinating with other science and technology organizations, advocated for increased funding through APS member op-eds and meetings with congressional offices. The result: key science agencies saw increases from fiscal year 2018 to 2019. For example, the Department of Energy Office of Science’s budget increased by 5%. Additionally, the president signed the National Quantum Initiative Act into law, which authorizes $1.2 billion over the next five years for new quantum information science research programs at the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the Department of Energy. The act also establishes a National Quantum Coordination Office within the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and promotes the commercialization of research breakthroughs during the next decade.
  • Visas & Immigration: Alerted by APS members, OGA carried out a survey of graduate programs that showed there was an alarming 12% decline in international applications to US institutions, from 2017 to 2018. OGA responded, in part, by urging Congress to make the F-1 visa “dual intent”—giving international students the opportunity to simultaneously study and apply for citizenship in the United States. APS leaders, physics department chairs, and members participated in numerous meetings in their states and on Capitol Hill. During 2019, the office plans to expand the goal to address the broader issue of scientific mobility.
  • STEM Education: US Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20th) and former US Rep. Barbara Comstock (VA-10th) co-sponsored a bipartisan resolution recognizing the importance of the APS Bridge Program in helping underrepresented minorities in STEM earn Ph.D. degrees in physics. The resolution followed the visits of several Bridge students who met directly with some members of Congress and shared their compelling stories about how their lives were changed by the Bridge Program. Brian Zamarripa Roman, Michelle Lollie, and Dylan Smith met directly with Comstock and Castro. They also visited other congressional offices.
  • Non-Proliferation: Commissioned by the APS Panel on Public Affairs, the report, “Neutrons for the Nation,” was released. The report urged the Trump Administration to begin an effort to design and build a new research reactor for neutron research and development to maintain US leadership. That goal has now been publicly embraced by NIST. The report continues to yield positive responses following an op-ed authored by the study’s Co-Chairs Julia Phillips and James Wells. The Hill newspaper, a major Capitol Hill publication, published their op-ed.
  • Climate Change: APS released its full greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) report, becoming the first scientific organization to broadly assess and publicly post results of GHG emissions. Based on the report’s recommendations, APS took steps to help its members mitigate their GHG emissions from traveling to APS meetings by offering them an opportunity to donate to an environmental organization of their choice. APS unveiled the pilot campaign in November by providing the Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) members the ability to mitigate the effect of their travel to and from the DFD annual meeting in Atlanta.

“A key APS goal for 2019 is to make sure all Society members attending the organization’s largest national meetings have an opportunity to mitigate their GHG emissions,” said Mark Elsesser, APS OGA Manager of Science Policy.

“The environmental donation campaign will be an ongoing activity at APS’s major meetings in 2019 and beyond. We hope our meeting attendees take advantage of the opportunity,” he said.

The author is the APS Press Secretary.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik

February 2019 (Volume 28, Number 2)

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Articles in this Issue
Synthesizing Current Research Succinctly and Elegantly
APS Bridge Program and the National Mentoring Community Visit Google HQ
APS Membership Unit Profile: The Topical Group on Medical Physics
One if by Land, Qubits by Sea: The 2019 APS March Meeting Heads to Boston
Impact of Women in STEM Roadshow in India
Fuzzy Fluid Dynamics
Q&A with Standard Bearer Steven Weinberg
The Dark Energy Survey’s Six-year Exploration Comes to An End
The 2018 Gallery of Fluid Motion Poster Winners
This Month in Physics History
News from the APS Office of Government Affairs
FYI: Science Policy News from AIP
The Back Page