SfN Expands Advocacy Efforts to Amplify Need for Funding
Neuroscientists are most effective in communicating the importance of scientific research when they join together as one voice with a strong, cohesive message. That’s exactly what happened when 40 SfN members visited 54 U.S. congressional offices as part of the Society’s 11th annual Capitol Hill Day to press for robust federal funding for biomedical research. Sharing stories about neuroscience discoveries and the resulting economic and health benefits to society, advocates effectively connected their research advances to the support they receive from agencies like NIH and NSF.
“Our advocacy cannot be just a one-day affair,” SfN President Eric Nestler said to the audience of neuroscientists attending Hill Day. “It might start here today, but you all need to go home and get your colleagues at your home institutions involved in local, state, and federal advocacy on behalf of biomedical research.”
“This needs to be a 50-state effort,” he added. “This cannot just be New York, Boston, San Francisco … it has to be the entire country.”
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), co-chair of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus, joined the breakfast meeting that kicked off the day to thank SfN members for coming to Washington, DC, and meeting with their members of Congress. He noted that neuroscience research is an issue around which Americans can unite because almost everyone knows someone who is affected by a brain disease or disorder. Blumenauer also reinforced Nestler’s point that the fight for research funding needs to be a movement that engages as many people as possible to spread the word.
“There are tens of thousands of people who are involved in neuroscience, who are busy with their research, busy in their labs,” Blumenauer said. “We need to have every one of them invest a little bit in sharing what they are doing with the community, with the political process.”
Recognizing the importance of supporting a movement that reinforces the central role of science in improving public health and conducting sound policymaking, SfN has joined with other scientific groups to endorse the March for Science taking place on Saturday, April 22, in DC and at hundreds of satellite events around the globe.
Creating Advocacy Tools, Targeting Key Lawmakers
To help SfN members worldwide amplify their message to policymakers and the public year-round, the Society is strategically investing in and expanding its advocacy efforts around the need for strong federal funding for science and favorable polices regarding animal research.
As part of these strategic efforts, SfN is designing additional advocacy-related activities and tools that make it as easy as possible for members to engage and build meaningful relationships with their legislators throughout the year.
Some of these activities will focus on helping SfN members better communicate to policymakers the implications and significance of neuroscience research. For example, SfN members coming to Hill Day received training on giving their “elevator speeches,” incorporating their personal narratives — such as how they got involved in neuroscience research and why it’s important to public health — in order to connect with lawmakers about the crucial research being conducted in their districts. SfN also reached out to a select group of its members who previously expressed interest in getting more involved in advocacy and asked them to create short “elevator speech” videos to post on social media during Hill Day and tag their lawmakers, thus emphasizing the message their colleagues delivered in person.
Helping ensure grassroots engagement in the lead-up to Hill Day, SfN sent out several action alerts encouraging its members to email their lawmakers and ask them to take action in support of science, such as by joining the NIH Caucus, supporting NIH and NSF funding, and rejecting the administration’s immigration executive orders. SfN provides its members with prewritten emails that they can personalize and send to their members of Congress with the click of a button.
The Society also produced a webinar, The Federal Budget Process and What It Means For Your Lab, in advance of Hill Day to provide SfN members with an overview of how the congressional budget and appropriations processes work and what the failure of the budget process means for scientific research funding through agencies like NIH.
Another key strategy in SfN’s expanded advocacy efforts is engaging in targeted grassroots activities. The Society has identified specific congressional districts and states that are either hubs for biomedical research or have lawmakers on committees that deal with science-related issues. SfN plans to work with local neuroscientists to cultivate relationships with these policymakers, with the goal of creating a stable of champions for neuroscience and biomedical research within Congress.
SfN will guide local scientists on effective strategies for communicating with their lawmakers and their fellow constituents in the district to demonstrate the importance of federal funding for science. These strategies include activities such as inviting elected officials on lab tours, scheduling in-district meetings with congressional offices, or creating written communications, such as opinion editorials for local publications.
In alignment with this grassroots advocacy strategy, SfN can assist neuroscientists in reaching out to lawmakers, provide useful information (such as state fact sheets on NIH funding) to help prepare for meetings, and aid in writing communications in support of funding for biomedical research and the responsible use of animals in research. For example, in March, SfN worked with Cecilia Fox, a neuroscience professor at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa., to help her personalize an op-ed about the importance of federal funding for research that ran in her local paper, The Morning Call.
Moving forward, SfN will continue to refine its advocacy strategy and grow its advocacy presence, with guidance from the SfN Government and Public Affairs Committee. To learn more about SfN’s advocacy activities and stay up to date on policy news, sign up for SfN’s Advocacy Network. If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.