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Your Turn For Advocacy!

by Kathleen M. Schulz
September 15, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 37

Credit: Courtesy of Kathleen M. Schulz
Kathleen M. Schulz, ACS Director At-Large.
Credit: Courtesy of Kathleen M. Schulz

A good motivational speech should act like a curveball—surprise you! Perhaps even inspire you. That’s how I hope you felt reading my ACS Comment in the April 7 issue of C&EN (page 47).

But inspiration is a funny thing. It can take a while before you settle into any new approach. You have to feel your way into it, make it your own.

In April, I challenged you to do just that. I said that we—as individuals and as an organization of more than 161,000 members—needed to reconsider how we advocate for the issues most critical to chemistry. Too often we do things the same old way without reflecting on whether those approaches are still succeeding.

I recommended reforming our advocacy using a three-word mantra: Reflect, Organize, Act. In today’s busy world, too often we act first, maybeorganize, and only later, if at all, reflect.

It’s been a few months since my prior Comment, so let me briefly summarize.

REFLECT. Before you do anything, I urge you to spend some quality time thinking: Has my advocacy succeeded? How well? Really, who is the target audience? Am I tailoring my approach to the target audience(s)?

ORGANIZE. Rather than going solo, organize with others. Find your tribe of people who are also passionate on this issue. Join them; benefit from their energy, ideas, and skills. As the old saying goes, many hands (and brains) make light work.

ACT. Many people ponder—someday, someday I will act on behalf of science, on behalf of chemistry. No matter how daunting advocacy appears, if we reflect, organize with others, and take action, we can make an impact! No matter how elusive success may seem, we all have one last moment of truth—the decision: “This time, will I ‘doooo something’ about it?”

I’d like to share two wonderful stories of successful ACS member advocacy to inspire you to start your own advocacy journey.

First, ACS members in Tennessee. They’ve met with their state legislators on multiple occasions to prioritize science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues. Tennessee is home to many science- and engineering-based enterprises, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Arnold Air Force Base, several automobile manufacturers, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and numerous labs at the University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University. It is imperative that Tennesseans graduate from school prepared to work in STEM fields.

Establishing a state science curriculum was a priority in Tennessee, but implementing strong STEM education programs is not easy. As in most of the U.S., there is a huge shortage of well-trained K–12 science teachers in Tennessee.

Navigating this complex array of STEM education issues is a challenge, complicated by the politicization of science standards. To address the debate, ACS members helped establish a STEM caucus, a cohort of state legislators who meet with the STEM education community and other stakeholders and then share the information with the larger state legislature.

No one ACS member did all the heavy lifting to make the Tennessee STEM caucus a reality. It took a team and multiple occasions of reflection, organization, and action. The outcome: Tennessee has one of ACS’s most successful government affairs committees in advocating for STEM education!

In Colorado, another cadre of ACS members mobilized to support chemistry through state legislation that promotes energy research and business tax credits to incentivize small businesses in highly innovative fields.

How did ACS members in Colorado do this? Often we think that all innovation policy is federal, especially regarding funding scientific research and encouraging business investments. But our Colorado members remembered that ultimately politics is local, and they focused on their state legislature.

A core team of a half-dozen Colorado ACS members developed a comprehensive approach. They identified seven or eight key legislators relevant to the policies they hoped to pass, made personal visits to these legislators and to Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, and followed up with public documents that support their position.

As a result, the Colorado Energy Research Authority was created to allocate funds and reserves, and the Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory has been strengthened. To review the bill to see whether this approach might work in your state, look for S.B. 14-011 ( in the Colorado legislature, signed into law in May 2014.

Colorado H.B. 14-1012 ( also passed in 2014, creating the Advanced Industry Investment Income Tax Credit, replacing a previous tax credit. The new credit is available for qualified investors who, prior to Jan. 1, 2018, make an equity investment in small businesses from industries such as advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, energy and natural resources, information technology, and infrastructure engineering.

All ACS members have opportunities to influence public policy, but like our Tennessee and Colorado members, we must be creative and try new approaches. To get started, visit ACS’s advocacy website at, or contact ACS staff in the Office of Public Affairs: Senior Legislative Associate Kathryn Verona,, or Legislative Associate Katelynn Eckert,

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.



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