FASEB Helps Researchers Find Their Passion for AdvocacyBy: Jennifer Zeitzer
Thursday, March 11, 2021
Due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, FASEB’s Capitol Hill Day went virtual for the first time in 2021. On March 9 and March 11, nearly 50 members of FASEB’s Board and Science Policy Committee, as well as volunteers from member societies logged on to their computers to participate in more than 100 Zoom meetings with aides from House and Senate offices. The meetings featured researchers representing 29 states and 26 FASEB societies and showcased the diversity of science by discipline, geography, and career stage.
While the FASEB representatives missed traveling to Washington, the virtual format allowed for greater participation from those in further away time zones, including Hawaii and Montana. During the discussions with congressional aides, advocates explained that transformative science and innovation are possible if the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), and other federal research agencies received increased funding. They also presented FASEB’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding requests for the science agencies and shared updated data on the amount of federal funding each state and district receives from NIH, NSF, the Department of Energy Office of Science, and the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative that supports competitive grants for agriculture research.
In conjunction with Virtual Capitol Hill Day, FASEB also created a new page of resources to help researchers, postdoctoral scholars, and others in the scientific community become active and engaged advocates. The page features an advocacy toolkit that includes practical tools to help scientists communicate with their elected officials, tracks the current funding status for NIH and NSF, and provides links to FASEB’s recommended funding levels for five critical federal research agencies. FASEB’s popular state and district factsheet series is also accessible via the page as is a Legislative Action Center that allows advocates to find the contact information for their elected officials.
It is not enough for organizations like FASEB to advocate for science – policymakers want to hear from constituents, too. FASEB welcomes and encourages researchers to actively participate in advocacy activities supported by the Federation and its member societies, especially since President Joe Biden is expected to send his FY 2022 budget request to Congress later this spring. Submission of the presential budget is the first step in the long process that determines the final amount of funding federal agencies receive each year. Recent advocacy successes – including multi-billion dollar increases for NIH in late 2020 – were the result of FASEB’s and the scientific community’s joint advocacy. Continued bipartisan support from Congress will require even more work in 2021 as foreign competition increases and the U.S. research enterprise continues to recover from disruptions due to COVID-19.