21 November 2018

Looking Beyond the U.S. Midterm Elections: Support for Science on Capitol Hill

Posted by Chris McEntee

The recent elections in the United States brought many changes to the policy landscape, many of which will have real consequences for the Earth and space science community. Changes on Capitol Hill can affect the role science plays in critical policy decisions that will have effects both within and beyond U.S. borders. 

First and foremost, Congress will have new leaders, including some additional members with professional backgrounds in science. AGU congratulates the incoming senators and representatives, and reaffirms our commitment to share the expertise of our 60,000 Earth and space scientist members with elected officials on both sides of the aisle. During the 2018 Fall Meeting in Washington, D.C., AGU will host visits with AGU members and their congressional representatives to begin building inroads with newly elected legislators and build upon established relationships with current ones.

With the Democrats taking over leadership in the House of Representatives, there will be notable changes in the leadership and priorities of the overall House as well as the committees important to the science community – including the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the various subcommittees that fund the scientific agencies. AGU will work closely with all the new leaders to promote the value of Earth and space science.  

AGU also hopes to work with both chambers of Congress to protect funding for federal scientific agencies, programs, and research. For example, in the wake of a devastating hurricane and fire season in the U.S., we will advocate to maintain—or even increase—NOAA’s budget for Earth observation systems. This is important as we look to build a more resilient society, especially as we experience the impact of climate change and natural disasters. Investing in scientific research that strengthens the economy, ensures public health and national security, and protects the environment, is another goal AGU’s community will pursue in the next Congress.

We also continue to encourage action on legislation combating harassment in the sciences, as well as the implementation of the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s new policies that require institutions receiving NSF grants to report findings of sexual harassment. These priorities align with AGU’s work to promote a safe work environment in the Earth and space sciences that is free of harassment. In addition, AGU will advocate on behalf of science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) education initiatives to foster a more representative, innovative, and competitive scientific workforce.

Since the last U.S. election in 2016, AGU heard from many members and others in the scientific community about their concerns regarding the future of scientific endeavors. In response, AGU prioritized initiatives aimed at giving voice to our members so that they can help expand policy makers’ awareness of the critical role the Earth and space sciences play in our society. Through efforts such as the Sharing Science Voices for Science program, scientists have gained the skills, support, and opportunities to advocate on behalf of science with local, state, and national policy makers. During Fall Meeting, Voices for Science advocates will continue their outreach to their elected officials and help to mentor other scientists in such engagement. The Voices for Science program will continue again in 2019 and applications open next month.

In the next U.S. Congress, AGU will continue to work to advance the interests of all our members—U.S. and international—with policy makers from all political parties. As we often say, there are no sides in science. I encourage scientists to continue speaking out as science is vitally important to our economy, as well as public health and safety. AGU’s Sharing Science program provides essential tips and tools to help scientists effectively communicate the importance of Earth and space science to policy makers and other audiences. In addition, you can reach out directly to your legislators through our Policy Action Center. By providing all members of Congress with the information they need, AGU can cultivate strong support for science, as well as the extraordinary benefits it offers our society.