Just like old US Army recruiting posters that featured Uncle Sam pointing his finger to let people know he wants them, I want to point out that there is a role for all US-based members to play in advocating for chemistry with policy makers. Chemists solve some of the world’s biggest challenges, but we can’t do it alone. By engaging with policymakers, you can help build support for funding and policies that will improve lives through the power of chemistry.
It’s a great time to get involved with American Chemical Society public policy efforts. A new session of Congress started Jan. 3, and US president Joe Biden will outline his legislative priorities in his State of the Union address Feb. 7.
ACS has a long history of engaging in public policy and working with policy makers. When Franklin D. Roosevelt signed ACS’s national charter in 1937, the US government charged the society to encourage the advancement of chemistry, promote research in the chemical sciences and industry, aid the development of the country’s industries, and add to the “material prosperity and happiness of our people.”
The ACS Committee on Chemistry and Public Affairs (CCPA) works with the government affairs office at ACS to help the society fulfill its national charter. The committee identifies and analyzes legislative, regulatory, public funding, and other science policy issues that impact the chemical sciences. It then makes recommendations on policy statements written by ACS staff, facilitates communication between chemistry experts and the government on questions concerning the chemical sciences and technologies, and encourages ACS members to become more involved in government relations.
The CCPA vision is “Public policy informed by chemistry,” and its mission is to “catalyze ACS communities to improve public policy.” One committee cannot accomplish these goals alone—that’s why we want you! ACS members can get involved in a variety of ways that match their interest levels, knowledge, and passion.
The simplest step you can take is to visit www.acs.org/policy and learn about ACS advocacy efforts. ACS government affairs staff continually monitor the legislative agenda, new regulations, federal agency requests for public comment, and appropriations for anything that might affect chemists and the chemical sciences to highlight opportunities for ACS members to engage.
ACS has more than 20 public policy statements. One of CCPA’s core functions is to review, edit, and develop policy statements for the ACS Board of Directors’ consideration and approval. Two statements that originated in CCPA will expire at the end of 2023 unless intervening action is taken by the Board Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations. Those statements are “A Competitive U.S. Business Climate: Innovation, Chemistry, and Jobs” and “Science and Technology in the Budget.” CCPA will start reviewing these statements soon to facilitate the board’s consideration, and I welcome your thoughts on updates. Take a look and share your views by emailing email@example.com.
To take a more active role in ACS advocacy, please consider joining Act4Chemistry. This grassroots legislative action network gives ACS members tools to interact with elected officials. You can personalize precrafted messages on ACS priority issues and find advice on how to write letters and time your communication for a big impact.
The next level of engagement might be to visit your representatives. This can seem daunting at first, but remember that elected officials have an obligation to engage with you. ACS provides training and tools so that you have the necessary background and know-how to interact effectively with government officials. ACS virtual advocacy workshops give you a primer on civics and hands-on role-playing examples to help you on your journey. More information can be found at cenm.ag/advocacy.
Lastly, if you think a full-time job in public policy might be your calling, look at the ACS Congressional and Science Policy Fellowships. For almost 50 years, this program has placed PhD-level scientists and engineers on Capitol Hill to help connect scientists and policy makers. ACS congressional fellows provide technical expertise to congressional offices, and in return, fellows get an up-close view on the inner workings of policy and politics. In 1986, ACS created the ACS Science Policy Fellowships, in which people join the ACS government affairs staff for 1–2 years. Fellows work with ACS staff to provide policy makers with information on science’s role in public policy, support recommendations that affect the chemistry enterprise, and involve ACS members in the policy process. More information about the fellowships, including how to apply, can be found at www.acs.org/policyfellow.
CCPA wants you! Every ACS member in the US can participate in ACS policy activities. Please take the time to learn more about the work of CCPA, share your opinions on policy issues, contact your elected officials, or even consider applying your professional chemistry training to a policy career.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.