Issue Date: December 10, 2007
The Key To ACS Policy Success Is You
SURVEY AFTER SURVEY of elected officials across the nation consistently indicate that the most effective public policy communications to them are from their constituents.
The American Chemical Society currently has more than 13,500 members who have signed up for the Legislative Action Network (LAN). This group of volunteers has generated more than 70,000 letters to elected officials in the past eight years on ACS priority issues such as federal R&D funding, improving science education, and promoting green chemistry and a sound national energy agenda. ACS has heard from many quarters that our active involvement on legislation has helped to secure passage and enactment into law.
While it is gratifying to be recognized for our advocacy successes, the larger question is can we do better and be even more effective? The answer, I believe, is a resounding "yes."
ACS has repeatedly heard from elected officials that they need and want to hear from their scientist constituents so they have the benefit of scientific views when voting on technical matters.
As the world's largest scientific society, ACS has immense advocacy power in its member base. Our 13,500 LAN members are a very small percentage of our 137,000 U.S. members. Imagine if we could convince each of those members to join and be active in LAN-that would really enhance our overall advocacy efforts.
The Board Committee on Public Affairs & Public Relations (PA&PR) has been working with the ACS Office of Legislative & Government Affairs (OLGA) to accomplish the following:
Recruit more ACS members into LAN. Since 2005, the number of LAN members increased by 4,000, largely as a result of recruitment efforts at national and regional meetings.
Increase the number of local sections with government affairs committees. Since 2005, the number of local sections with a government affairs committee has grown from 25 to 64. LAN is focused on issues at a national level, but in the spirit that all politics is local, government affairs committees work in concert with LAN and bring advocacy efforts to the local level.
Help members become more effective advocates. Training is being provided to government affairs committee chairs and other members to show what works and what doesn't in advocacy efforts.
Here are three steps you can take: First, join LAN. If you haven't already done so, visit www.acs.org, click on the "Policy" tab, and then click the "Sign Up!" button under the "Legislative Action Network" heading. Become an ACS advocate for science!
Second, invite your coworkers and peers to join ACS, so they can become active in advocating for science through LAN.
Third, create a government affairs committee. Does your local section have one? If not, why not start one? To check and see if your local section has a committee, visit www.acs.org, click on the "Policy" tab, and click "Government Affairs Committee" on the right side of the page. Getting started is easy. Just contact OLGA's Brad Smith at email@example.com.
A new state government affairs advocacy pilot program was recently approved by the ACS Board of Directors. The five-state pilot proposed by PA&PR commences in 2008, but organizing work in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee is already under way.
The initial focus of the state program will be improving K-12 science education. The key to success for the state programs will be the effective involvement of ACS members. Building an effective and sustainable program in each of these five states can be compared to a ladder; each rung represents a step toward the ultimate objective of improving K-12 science education. The steps are the following:
Establish a government affairs committee in each local session.
Create a coordinating committee for the government affairs committees.
Recruit ACS members to join state LANs.
Develop collaborations with other like-minded organizations such as math and science foundations, the National Science Teachers Association state chapters, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Develop an advocacy action agenda.
Implement the agenda and interact with public officials.
As the title of this Comment states, the key to ACS policy success begins and ends with you. If getting involved with creating something from the ground up is of interest to you, please contact Glenn Ruskin, OLGA director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact me at email@example.com.
To all members who have not yet become ACS advocates: Get involved, get connected, and experience the satisfaction of knowing that your voice is joining thousands of your ACS colleagues to make a positive difference for science, science education, and the future.
Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.
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