How you introduce yourself to a lawmaker or their staff will set the stage for an effective visit. Here are the basics:
- Name, town, and years you’ve lived in district
- Occupation, what you do
- You are representing the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineers as an elected Fellow of the Institute
- What are you asking them to consider (for example, providing long-term, consistent funding for NIH, NSF, DARPA that keeps up with biomedical inflation)
- Why should someone care about this topic and how does it relate to your research?
Next, share your story and connect it to the local community through your affiliation to a college, university, or local business. Stay focused on the core goals of your conversation and avoid off-topic or hot button issues like the Affordable Care Act. Provide a show-and-tell object but avoid a slideshow presentation. Your meeting will last no longer than 30 minutes, so be concise.
Last, but not least, volunteer to be a local resource. Legislators often set up advisory panels consisting of local experts to provide them with the “local view” on major policy issues. By volunteering to serve on these advisory groups, you will be in a central position to provide input.
Keep in Mind
Staff are Powerful
Never underestimate the influence of Congressional staffers. They are often young, but they have the ear of the Member of Congress. Additionally, don’t assume they understand biomedical research or the connection between research, innovation, jobs, and health and well-being.
Keep it Simple
Lawmakers and staff schedule dozens of meetings a day. If you focus your visit on statistics, it will be quickly forgotten. Paint a picture and they will remember it. Make it personal about how research saved a specific life or provide a personal antidote. Forget the facts and numbers – speak from your heart.
Keep complicated policy discussions out of the conversation. Don’t try to figure out how to balance the budget or come up with bipartisan solutions. Stick to your message and talking points.
- FY18 spending will trigger an across the board sequestration budget cut. Sequestration (budget cuts) is killing America’s leadership in MBE innovation and discovery.
- Sequestration hurts all discretionary spending programs including NIH, NSF, NIST, DARPA and other critical federal R&D initiatives. Because of past sequestration and budget cuts, funding today to the NIH provides the buying power 22% less than 10 years ago.
- Sequestration requires equal pain on defense and nondefense to force Congress to fix the budget. President Trump and many House Republicans want to decouple equal pain for defense and non-defense programs. Don’t let defense off while inflicting greater budget cuts on nondefense….
- Lawmakers are proud of having supported $2 billion increase in NIH spending. Yet, Federal R&D as a percentage of GDP is at the lowest point since 1976. Today we spend $25 federal dollars on health care for every $1 spent on research for a cure.
- Research needs stable funding – not up and down, on-again, off-again. An uncertainty of funding hurts sustained, level-funding needs for research.