With the March for Science having overlapped with the first Saturday of EB 2017, I’m sure many attendees might have wondered if there is anything else they could do to get their voices heard by the government of this great nation. It just so happened that another event held on Tuesday morning helped to answer this exact question, with a session entitled “Science and Government: How to make a Difference Through Advocacy”. The first speaker was Ken Thummel, past president of the science policy committee and chair elect, who spoke of the external and internal factors that affect the way the scientific community and ultimately its funding is viewed, including the prevalence of low scientific literacy in the general public, the increased focus on the short term benefits of advances in research, the failure of pharmacology to tie advances in healthcare and life expectancy to research discoveries, and the disappearance of identifiable pharmacology programs. He stressed that young scientific fellows are at an advantage when bringing our cause to the attention of the government because, as he put it, young scientists are unbiased and honest brokers since they are not viewed as having their own agenda when it comes to funding their own laboratories. Susanna Aguirre, manager of government affairs and science policy, followed this by introducing the audience to the ASPET Washington Fellows program, which provides training and advocacy materials as well as a platform for members to participate in advocacy in order to help influence policy. More information can be found on the Washington Fellows site.
Further speakers included Dr. Chad R. Jackson, a life science diplomat and contractor for the D.O.D. who, as a post-doc, had reached a point in his career when he felt he had more to achieve, and participated in the AAAS science policy fellowship, which provided a first-hand opportunity to learn about policymaking and helped him get into his current career path. Dr. Debra cooper, a principal consultant for the California State Senate Committee on Appropriations, got this position after participating in the CCST fellowship program, which is another opportunity to learn about policy making but at the state level in California. She encouraged attendees to consider a fellowship in government because, as scientists, we are already equipped to handle any situation that would present itself within the realm of science policy. Further speakers included Dr. Dennis Marshall, executive director of medical affairs at Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Dr. Yvette Seger from FASEB. The takeaway message from this session was that if you have an interest in advocating for science in a government setting, there are many tools and resources available, and there is no time like the present to start making a difference through advocacy.