13 April 2017

All Politics is Local – Engaging your Legislators Locally

Posted by Shane Hanlon

This is a cross-post by Brittany Webster, Specialist in AGU’s Public Affairs program, from their blog The Bridge. The original can be found here

Today is the 82nd day of the Trump presidency and science has already emerged as a significant issue, although not always in ways the scientific community supports.  Given this environment, scientists and non-scientists alike are asking, “What can we do to support science?”

Currently, your members of Congress are back home in their states and districts for April recess. April recess runs from Saturday, 8 April through the weekend of the March for Science on 22 April. Congressional recesses are also known as district work periods—time for congressional members to share what they have been working on in Washington, D.C. and to learn about their constituents’ priorities.

Congressional recesses are the perfect time to engage with your legislator about what is important to you. To get you started, here are ten things you can do over the next couple of weeks to show your support for science in your community and around the world! Each title links you to a short video with more information.

1) Schedule a meeting with your member of Congress to talk about why science is essential

Your members of Congress represent you and want to learn about what is important to their constituents. One of the best ways to engage is to meet your legislators and learn about their values, priorities, and agenda. Explicitly tell them how science supports their priorities—this will demonstrate the value of science for their perspective, and help you build a relationship with them.

2) Hone your science message

Whether talking with friends and family or legislators, it is important to develop a compelling and concise story about your research and the bigger picture scientific issue that you are studying. A strong narrative, like a good book, will draw others in and make them care about your research and the questions you are working to solve.

3) Share your science with your community

“All politics is local.” This famous political axiom continues to prove true. Build up science support in your community by sharing your science message, in a compelling way, with as many community members as possible. If your community values science, then your elected officials, who represent you, will follow suit.

4) Attend your member of Congress’s town hall or coffee hour and ask about science

If scheduling a meeting with your member of Congress seems too nerve-racking, try attending a town hall, coffee hour, or other local event hosted by your Senator or Representative. It’s a more informal way to meet them and learn about their priorities. And while you are there, share your science message with the congressional member and their staff to begin a dialogue on the value of science.

5) Write an op-ed or letter-to-the-editor on the value of science

We all have a local newspaper; this is often the paper that legislators read daily to get the pulse of the community. Consider writing an op-ed or letter to the editor of your local paper about science, specifically highlighting the value of science for your local community.

6) Call your members of Congress to discuss why your community needs science

Every call to a congressional office, whether in Washington, D.C. or in a local district office, is logged. Generally, the member is given a list of the most called about issues or legislation for the week. Rarely is science on that list. Take five minutes to call your legislator. Let them know that you are a constituent and that you want to ask them to support science because of its value to the district. Then ask your colleagues, friends, and family to call as well.

7) Send a postcard to your members of Congress on why science is essential for your community

Download or request a bulk order of AGU’s Science is Essential postcards. Take a couple of minutes to share with your legislators why science is important for your community or consider making even more of an impact by gathering friends and family for a postcard party!

8) Take action with AGU’s Policy Action Center

Federal funding season is upon us. Write your legislators about the importance of federal science funding now. Our action center provides a template and customizable talking points to help you convey your message. We will even send it to your legislator with a click of a button!


9) Tweet at your members of Congress

Sixty percent of congressional staff say that checking social media is a part of their daily work routine. Make sure science is trending! A new discovery at your institution, an interesting science-related article, or a simple “thank you” for their latest action in support of science are all great tweets.

10) Share why you march

Show how science serves by sharing why you are participating in the March for Science, either here in D.C. or in one of the satellite marches around the world. Be sure to check out CSLDF’s tips for protecting your rights while you march.

Bonus: Think (even more) locally

One last note, although we’re focusing on your federal officials, all these actions can be taken in relation to your local or state elected officials as well. Remember that members of Congress often start their political careers in state politics.

We hope you will consider taking at least one, if not all the actions listed above. To get more tools, tips, and resources related to these actions, including messages from the AGU team, please visit sharingscience.agu.org/action.