Dozens of biological researchers and educators met with their lawmakers as part of the 6th Annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event. This national initiative, organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), encourages scientists across the nation to showcase for federal and state lawmakers the people, facilities, and equipment required to conduct scientific research. The NSC Alliance was a sponsor of the event.

“Biological research underpins innovations that touch the lives of Americans every day, from advances in food safety and security to better environmental management to improvements in human health,” said Dr. Richard O’Grady, AIBS Executive Director. “Scientists demonstrate these payoffs when they meet with their members of Congress or state legislators to discuss their research.”

This nationwide event enables scientists to meet with their elected officials in their local area rather than in Washington, DC or the state capital, and allows lawmakers to learn first-hand about the science and research facilities in their district. Meetings took place in cities and states across the country.

Scientists participating in the event discussed the importance of life sciences research with the individuals responsible for casting the votes that shape the nation’s science policy. Participants ranged from graduate students to senior researchers and educators.

“The visit was about information sharing,” explained Frank Kuserk, professor of biological sciences and director of the environmental studies and sciences program at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “We wanted an opportunity to show [Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA)] the many good things that we doing here at Moravian. Our students were nervous, but they did a terrific job of sharing their enthusiasm, answering his questions and interacting with him.”

In addition to NSC Alliance, the event was sponsored by the Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Society for the Study of Evolution, and Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Individuals in the 2014 event participated in an interactive training webinar. The program provided information about how best to communicate science to non-technical audiences, tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official, and information about trends in funding for research.

Highlights of the event include:

  • U.S. Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA) visited the campus of Moravian College and met with undergraduate students and faculty members involved in a research mentoring program;
  • The Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration at the University California, Santa Barbara hosted U.S. Representative Lois Capps (D-CA);
  • U.S. Representative Dan Benishek (R-MI) toured the University of Michigan Biological Station;
  • Tours of research facilities were arranged for two California state senators;
  • Faculty members at Texas Tech University and the University of Central Missouri met with their Representatives at local district offices;
  • Congressional staff toured the Otis L. Floyd Nursery Research Center at Tennessee State University, a new research facility at Harvard Medical School, and a natural history collection at Southeastern Louisiana University; and
  • Numerous other meetings were held with state elected officials and the staff of federal and state lawmakers.

More information about the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is available at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html.