ASM Members Speak up for Science During Hill Day

Oct. 8, 2020

ASM is committed to serving the microbial sciences and taking that passion to Capitol Hill. ASM Hill Days held each year give selected qualified participants the opportunity to meet with their elected officials and advocate for science. 

Over 30 early-career scientists and members of ASM’s Public and Scientific Affairs Committee (PSAC) participated in ASM's September 2020 Hill Day. Without setting foot in D.C., participants met with members of Congress and their staff through online platforms. Together, they completed 55 meetings representing 20 states and 29 Congressional Districts.

Their connection may have been virtual, but the advocacy was real. ASM members like Jeffrey Lee, a graduate student at Princeton University, stressed the importance of adequately funding the sciences and gave first-hand accounts of how COVID-19 affected their labs and research. Their stories provided a deeper reason for legislators to support the RISE Act, a bill designed to compensate for the damage done to scientific progress this year.

“I applied for Hill Day because after having worked at the micro-level, specifically hands-on work and focusing a lot of effort in academic research, I felt the need to take my experiences and expand into the macro-level,” Lee said. “I wanted to contribute to the bigger picture and policy was the first thing that came to mind. A robust and sustained funding approach by the federal government of scientific research is essential for scientific advances. These funds are the basis for understanding how microorganisms communicate, interact, and affect human health. Ultimately, these same funds will be the roots that are planted to help spur the discovery of life-saving therapeutics and interventions.”

“[The] current COVID-19 pandemic underscore(s) the need to ensure that lawmakers and the public are given factual scientific information about how to combat infectious disease,” said Sanjana Mukherjee, Ph.D. and research fellow at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “In today’s era, with social media playing an important role in our lives, the rampant spread of misinformation in the context of public health emergencies is alarming. As scientists, it is our responsibility to prevent the rise in misinformation and ensure that the science we conduct reaches broader audiences.”

Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-14) speaks to ASM members about the importance of working together to support public health infrastructure.

ASM’s two-day program began with workshops on how to successfully deliver a scientific message and become an effective science communicator. Participants also learned about the legislative process, the Federal Budget and Appropriations process and the influences of federal policymaking and scientific research on one another. Additionally, the participants were addressed by U.S. Representatives and Senators about legislation to improve microbiology research funding and by the Deputy Health Policy Director for Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The next day, participants met with their legislators for more robust discussions.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) discusses how ASM's expertise informed legislation designed to combat COVID-19.

Stanford University Ph.D. candidate Callie Chappell said, “It was empowering to have the opportunity to speak with legislative offices. I am passionate about science policy, but haven’t had many chances to engage at the federal level. ASM did a great job combining training with real-world experience in science policy advocacy. Afterwards, I felt inspired and empowered. I know I was not alone. In addition to speaking with congressional offices, it was also very valuable to speak with ASM employees in grassroots advocacy, federal affairs, even the CEO. After this event, I felt even prouder to be a member of ASM!”

Hill Days are about more than just asking for legislative action. A major reason to connect with lawmakers is to build a lasting relationship with their office. That trust and open line of communication allow for microbiologists and legislators to work together in the long term to make better scientific policies. Chappell literally illustrated how her meetings came together.

Drawing by Callie Chappell of ASM Hill Day meeting
Callie Chappell illustrates how her meetings came together on ASM Hill Day.

“Science advocacy is not something that is done once in your lifetime, but rather a long, continuous process of engaging with stakeholders and decision makers at various levels and across party lines, said Lee. “I encourage every scientist to advocate for effective, science-driven policy. These policies may serve as the foundation for discoveries and advancements in science that can improve the lives of every human.”

“As microbiologists, we have an obligation to work with policymakers so they understand the impact of their decisions on the work that we do. I’m so inspired by the early career scientists who participated in Hill day and encourage everyone – regardless of career stage – to play a role in ASM’s advocacy efforts,” said Dr. Stacey Schultz-Cherry, PSAC Chair.

If you’re interested in being part of more of ASM’s advocacy activities, sign up to be part of our mailing list or contact with any questions!

Author: ASM Advocacy

ASM Advocacy
ASM Advocacy is making it easy and providing opportunities for members to advocate for evidence-based scientific policy.