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Becoming a skilled advocate for chemistry

by Raymond Forslund, Chair, ACS Committee on Chemistry & Public Affairs
March 26, 2018 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 96, ISSUE 13

The start of a new administration usually brings some uncertainty: What issues will be most important? How will campaign rhetoric translate to policy? What is going to change? A little more than one year into President Donald J. Trump’s term, we now have some answers to how he differs from his predecessors—and we are beginning to see what it means for science policy and chemistry.

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Credit: Courtesy of Raymond Forslund
Forslund

Trump’s approach to a wide range of issues has been unconventional, and science policy has been no exception. Breaking with the tradition observed by most modern presidents, he has yet to name a science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, an important role that coordinates science and technology activities and policies across federal agencies and that has been filled since former president Richard Nixon’s administration.

Trump has also been reluctant to support federal funding for science and technology. For the second year in a row, he has proposed a budget that would shrink critical programs at the National Institute of Standards & Technology, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy. Lastly, this administration has shuttered or overhauled a number of federal scientific advisory boards, including high-profile changes at EPA that now prevent EPA-funded scientists from sitting on these important panels.

Scientists across the country have responded to these changes with alarm. Some have decided to run for office themselves, and many others are speaking out about the important contributions science makes to U.S. national security, our economy, and our overall well-being.

In the past year, thousands of ACS members have engaged with their elected officials in areas ranging from funding for research and development to safety, education, and professional issues. Take tax reform, for example; originally, the House tax reform bill proposed taxing graduate education tuition waivers, which would have resulted in higher taxes for scientists in training. Alongside other scientists and educators, ACS members voiced their concerns for this proposed provision, explaining its detrimental effects via letters, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, and hearings on Capitol Hill. In the end, this overwhelming outpouring of engagement resulted in the removal of the proposed provision, keeping graduate training within reach for millions in the U.S.

Though engaging national leaders on topics like these may seem daunting, you’re in luck. ACS has several resources that are readily available for all ACS members looking to inform themselves on how to advocate at the state and federal level of policy issues important to chemists and those in the chemical enterprise.

 

It is our responsibility to ensure lawmakers are well educated when creating policies that affect our discipline, our work, and our communities.

The following resources are available at www.acs.org/advocacy:

The Act4Chemistry Legislative Action Network: ACS members can join this network to receive alerts and calls to action on pressing issues that affect the chemical enterprise.

The Act4Chemistry advocacy tool kit: This tool kit offers advocacy tips and resources to engage in science policy with lawmakers, such as information on
- How to write to your elected officials,
- How to attend a town hall meeting,
- What you need to know before meeting your lawmaker, and
- Act4Chemistry calls to action.

Act4Chemistry on Twitter: Follow @act4chemistry to receive regular updates on science policy issues and how ACS reacts to them.

A tool to find your legislators: This resource can help you identify your lawmakers and how to contact them.

An interactive map of Congressional Chemistry Caucus members: Use this interactive map to see which representatives and senators are part of the bipartisan, bicameral caucus created to inform lawmakers, their staff, and the public about the importance of chemistry.

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ACS’s policy statements: Read ACS’s positions on policy issues. These public policy statements guide all advocacy efforts for the organization.

ACS’s advocacy efforts: Read ACS’s statements, letters, and policy activities promoting the chemistry enterprise to policy-makers. Learn about other activities ACS has engaged in with regard to science policy.

As we continue to see the Trump administration’s priorities unfold, I encourage all ACS members to stay informed and to take action. As scientists and experts in our field, it is our responsibility to ensure that lawmakers are well educated when creating policies that affect our discipline, our work, and our communities. This can happen only if you get involved. For more information, visit ACS’s advocacy page at www.acs.org/advocacy.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.

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