Science Policy

& Advocacy Roles

In the US Congress

 

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ADVOCACY APPROACHES

 

Inside - "working with"

  • Working in the context of existing values and priorities 

  • Consulting

  • Relationship building

 

Outside - pushing change

  • Protests

  • Petitions

  • Media for public opinion

Communications - Applicable for both

  • Framing the issue

  • Conveying issues


ADVOCACY DEFINITIONS

 

Advocacy

  • Supporting or defending a cause or an issue

  • e.g., recommending support of evidence-based prevention programs

Education

  • Unbiased information to general public or public officials

  • e.g., research on evidence-based prevention programs

  • e.g., information about legislation, but make no recommendation for action

Lobbying

  • A specific type of advocacy activity

  • Seeks to influence the enactment or defeat of pending legislation

  • e.g., asking a legislator to vote a certain way

While ALL lobbying is advocacy, NOT ALL advocacy is Lobbying.


AVOIDING THE SLIPPER SLOPE

 

Lobbying Regulations - the use of certain resources

  • 501(c)(3) non-profits

  • Government employees

  • Federally funded research

Citizen Rights

  • Freedom of speech

  • Advocate with your elected officials

    • When you're not on paid time

    • Using personal, voluntary resources (e.g., computer; travel)


HONEST BROKER

 

  1. Focus on the issues and evidence

  2. Provide a menu of policy options (that have bipartisan appeal)

  3. Describe legislation objectively (not your opinion)

  4. Describe how evidence does or does not align with specific legislation


RESEARCH-TO-POLICY-COLLABORATION

  • Replicable implementation model

  • A feasible and efficient pathway for timely policy engagement

    • Identify opportunities​

    • Minimize logistical burden

    • In-depth T/A for responses

  • Effectiveness studied with RCT

    • More legislation with evidence

    • language

    • Greater value of using research to understand how to think about problems (i.e., conceptual)

    • Researchers report benefits


GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICE

  • Represents the University interests; e.g.,

    • ​Research funding

    • Higher education

      • Regulation​

      • Funding

  • Occasionally consult with policy-engaged researchers; e.g.,

    • ​Policymaker requests

    • Representing the university

  • Typically do not have the capacity to broker by:

    • Identifying broad policy opportunities

    • Connecting the right researcher at the right time


COMMITTEES VS CAUCUSES

COMMITTEE

CAUCUS

  • Official legislative process

    • Members are assigned​

    • Jurisdiction

  • Marks up legislation

  • Conducts hearings

  • Informal organization

    • Voluntary affiliation​

    • Legislators have similar policy concerns

  • Discuss issues, perform legislative research, and make policy plans

*Most bills die in committee

See RPC Policy Brief


COMMITTEES JURISDICTIONS

*Ways and Means is one of the oldest and most prestigious Committees

*Appropriations Committees are crucial to discretionary funding

See RPC Policy Process Brief


PERSONAL OFFICES

Staffers

Constituent Meetings

  • This is who you will meet

  • Don’t underestimate their influence

  • Gatekeepers and bill writers

  • Portfolios: Each staff is assigned to handle an issue area

  • Customer service role for constituents and stakeholders
    (i.e., they’re typically nice)

  • Average age <35

  • Rotating door

  • “All policy is local”

  • Legislators are elected to serve their districts/states

  • Very interested in local:

    • Problems / stories

    • Initiatives, orgs, successes

    • Your research

    • Your concerns and opinions


INTERACTING WITH OFFICES

Brief emails

  • 2-3 sentences

  • Bullet points

  • Ask for a meeting

  • Be persistent

Relationship Development

  • Active listening

  • Policy neutral (fact over opinion)

  • Reinforce values/beliefs (don’t challenge)

  • Transparency

    • Funding source / special interests

    • Limitations in expertise

  • Offer to help

Meeting Tips

  • Don’t stress – this is not as high stakes as one might think

  • Bring:

    • Business cards & notepad

    • Comfortable shoes

  • Focus on

    • Key point (singular)

    • Follow-up steps

  • Be Flexible

  • Express gratitude

  • Follow-up Email