Science took center stage in recent interactions between researchers and policymakers. Across the nation, dozens of researchers and educators met with their lawmakers as part of the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event, an initiative organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and sponsored by the Natural Science Collections Alliance.

This nationwide event facilitates meetings between scientists and their elected officials in their local area rather than in Washington, DC or a state capital, and allows lawmakers to learn first-hand about the science and research facilities in their district.

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.

“The Natural History Museum of Utah hosted Congressman Chris Stewart’s District Director and other members of his Utah staff in August. This was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the Congressman’s great staff, to spend time together in the Museum’s collections areas, as well as in the exhibits and other public areas of the Museum–and to talk about how to connect with the Congressman and his staff in the future,” said Ann Hanniball, Associate Director for Community Relations at the Natural History Museum of Utah, which is a member of the Natural Science Collections Alliance, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and AIBS.

Congressman Beto O’Rourke visited the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) Biodiversity Collections and posted on Facebook: “Impressed by UTEP’s Biodiversity Collections. These repositories of natural history show the unique and special treasures of El Paso and Castner Range. Over the next few days I’ll be posting highlights from these collections so you can share with your friends the special and historical significance of El Paso and Castner Range.”

Representative Tom Cole and his staff visited the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. The University of New Mexico Museum of Southwestern Biology hosted U.S. Senator Tom Udall’s staff. Several other NSC Alliance member organizations participated.

The 8th annual Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits were made possible by AIBS, with support from event sponsors Botanical Society of America, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Organization of Biological Field Stations, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections.

Participants in the event were prepared for their meetings during an interactive training webinar. The program provided information about how best to communicate science to non-technical audiences and tips for conducting a successful meeting with an elected official.

More information about the Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event is available at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits.html. Resources are also available for scientists who are interested in meeting with policymakers at www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressional_district_visits_resources.html.