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By Leah Poffenberger
The APS Office of Government Affairs (OGA) plays a vital role in speaking up for physics, and science as a whole, in the creation of government policy. But its most effective work isn’t done alone: Partnering with APS members who can speak as both constituents and physicists is more likely to get results (see OGA article on this page).
In conjunction with the APS Leadership Convocation held in Washington D.C. every year, this partnership comes to life through an annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD). At this year’s CVD, APS members, including the Presidential Line, attended nearly 100 meetings in congressional offices.
Participating in CVD doesn’t require special skills or lobbying experience, thanks to groundwork laid by OGA. At a pre-CVD briefing, attendees were given issue briefs, based on APS reports, to familiarize themselves with policy points and to give to staffers at congressional offices. The issues of concern this year were: supporting research and development funding, rebuilding research infrastructure, F-1 visa reform, sexual harassment in science, and climate change. The pre-brief also featured a “mock meeting,” to familiarize first-time CVD-goers on what to expect during their visits with congressional offices.
On the day of the visits, CVD participants, broken into groups based on state and congressional district, spread out on Capitol Hill for a full day of meetings with their respective representatives and senators. These groups include APS members from a variety of physics backgrounds and levels of experience—graduate students are often among the most compelling and effective CVD attendees.
Most of the meetings, typically lasting 15 to 20 minutes, but sometimes longer, are with congressional staffers responsible for handling science policy issues. At some meetings, the Congressperson may drop by to express support for science funding or express interest in co-sponsoring bills to address issues laid out by policy briefs. After a long day of meetings, CVD participants were invited to the National Press Building where OGA is located, to decompress and debrief. Attendees shared their experiences, highlighting successes, and reflecting on the day’s meetings.
While CVD is a special annual event for APS, OGA recognizes the value of connecting constituents and representatives year-round. Any APS member with a desire to influence science policy or advocate for issues in physics can contact OGA for assistance setting up their own congressional visit day. To advocate on science policy issues, visit OGA’s Advocacy Dashboard.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik