The 2014 Congressional August recess is one of the best times of the year to engage policymakers, and on August 7 and August 20, 2014, we did exactly that.
Historically, the Senate adjourned their session in the spring in order to avoid the sweltering summer heat. By 1970, year-long sessions became a regular occurrence; therefore, Congress mandated a summer break as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act. During this time, many Senators return to their home states in order to meet with constituents.(1)
In honor of the August recess, a group of seven current graduate students at the University of Kansas Medical Center participated in a nation-wide campaign to meet with members of Congress, specifically the offices of Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts. Collectively our message was threefold:
To thank the Senators for their previous support of biomedical research
To ask the Senators to support consistent and reliable funding levels for NIH at a pace consistent with inflation.
To share our personal stories about the effect of sequestration and the looming uncertainty for our future careers.
We wanted to communicate our points of views as current trainees, and overall we did just that. These meetings were important not only to advocate for the future of biomedical research, but also for the future of scientists with their entire careers ahead of them. Our voices are particularly quiet compared to other noteworthy groups, and we appreciate the time these offices set aside from their busy schedules to meet with us.
Remember, our voices may be small, but if we’re not at the table, we won’t be heard at all.
We are grateful to the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for making the arrangements and providing literature and training in preparation for these meetings.
Author: Angela N. Pierce, Society for Neuroscience Early Career Policy Fellow