The midterm elections of 2018 were historic in many ways, not the least of which was the election and introduction of the most racially diverse class ever in the US House of Representatives and the greatest number of women in Congress. This was graphically called out in the State of the Union in February, when women wore white to call attention to their presence in the House. And sitting on the dais behind the president was the first woman ever elected and reelected for a second term as Speaker of the House.
Despite this great diversity, one area in which the 116th Congress does not vary greatly from previous Congresses is the number of members with a science background. While there was progress in the number of scientists running in the midterm elections and the number of successfully elected scientists, scientists are still vastly outnumbered by elected officials with business, law, or political backgrounds.
In the 116th Congress, the number of members of Congress with a PhD in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) went up from two to three, while an additional 10 new members of Congress come with a STEM background. Progress to be sure, but science is still in the distinct minority in terms of expertise represented in the House and Senate.
The continued small pool of science experts within Congress makes ACS’s participation and advocacy for science, research and development, STEM education, and many other important priorities to enhance US innovation all the more important.
With the 116th Congress just getting underway, there is no better time for American Chemical Society members to engage with their congressional representatives. In particular, this is a great time to engage new members of Congress, who are beginning their journey as policy makers, forming their policy priorities, and recognizing the intricacies of how Congress works.
As the new chair of the Board Standing Committee on Public Affairs and Public Relations (PA&PR), whose jurisdiction covers the government affairs and communications aspects of ACS, I’d like to share some of the resources available to help ACS members reach out to their members of Congress. It is important to introduce members of Congress to ACS and its amazing resources available to help them understand and support the critical role chemistry and science play in US economic growth.
ACS, through its various member governance committees, regularly works on establishing public policy statements important to the chemistry enterprise. These statements are acted on by PA&PR and then used to guide ACS government affairs staff as well as ACS members in their advocacy efforts. I encourage you to view all the ACS policy statements at www.acs.org/policy.
These policy statements, including the ACS Public Policy Priorities statement (a high-level summary of all statements), offer an easy way to introduce ACS, our policy priorities, and more importantly, our expertise and technical knowledge as chemists to policy makers as they develop their policies.
Another effort to share with members of Congress is the opportunity to join the Congressional Chemistry Caucus. The caucus—spearheaded by ACS, the American Chemistry Council, and the National Association of Chemical Distributors—is a bipartisan and bicameral body launched in 2016 in the House of Representatives. It is designed to educate members of Congress, their staff, and the public on the benefits of chemistry in today’s society and its positive impact on our country. You can use the interactive map at www.acs.org/chemcaucus to see if your member is part of this group. And if not, I encourage you to use the tools within the map to ask them to join this caucus.
If you are more adventurous and wish to meet with your member of Congress in person or wish to contact them in a different way, we encourage you to do so. While engaging national leaders may seem like a daunting task, ACS has several resources that are readily available. For ACS members looking to inform themselves on how to advocate on policy issues important to chemists and those in the chemical enterprise, check out the Act4Chemistry advocacy tool kit and the Act4Chemistry legislative action network. The advocacy tool kit provides guidance on how to interact with your elected representatives and is a valuable resource to seasoned advocates and new ones alike.
As ACS members, we eagerly look to engage the public to impress upon them the importance of chemistry; Congress is no different and greatly needs to hear your eager voices. If you have any questions or need further guidance, please send an email to email@example.com.
Working as a team, we can make a positive difference for chemistry and science!
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.