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Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Advocacy in DC trip

The 2016-2017 ASAP advocacy trip to D.C provided attending members with an eye-opening view into the nuances of advocacy, federal agency regulations, and the different career options available to graduate researchers interested in science policy.  

ASAP began its trip at the Cornell Federal Relations office, where we met with Toby Smith, the VP of Policy at AAU. Toby spoke to our group about the historical background surrounding science policy. We discussed how the seminal policy leaders, Vannevar Bush and Vern Ehlers, paved the way for the research and science community, and how their reports and policy decisions serve as precedents for continuing positive change. After learning generally about the history of science policy, we went to Congress to discuss specific science related policies of interest to the ASAP group. Each of our members covered a different science policy issue that they were passionate about, and issues ranged from the amount of discretionary spending allocated for research to the impact of the executive ban on academia. That day alone ASAP met with over eight offices in both the house and senate including the offices of senator Gillibrand, Tom Mahr, the policy director for the minority whip, and congressman Paul Tonko. The opportunity to interact one-on-one with staffers and congressmen, allowed ASAP members to hone their science communication skills, understand and share concerns, and learn about how Congress operates to introduce such policy changes.

On the last day of our two-day trip, we visited the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the FDA. At AAAS, we had the chance to hear about the fellowships available to PhD scientists interested in both policy and mass media communication. While there, we were informed of the mission of AAAS as well as about ways in which graduate students can stay engaged in policy even while pursuing their PhD. Further, to observe the impact of regulatory policy on translational science and research, we next visited the FDA. While at the FDA we met with three recent biomedical PhD fellows, who were responsible for overseeing the approval process for medical devices at the agency. One of the fellows accompanied us on a tour of some of the on-site laboratories such as a 3D printing and robotics/prosthetics lab. While touring these labs, we learned that the aim of research conducted at the FDA is to assess and evaluate the public safety of new technology to ensure compliance with existing federal regulations. 

In sum, this trip galvanized many ASAP members who are hoping to pursue careers in science advocacy, policy, and communication. Each year ASAP prepares a tailored agenda based on student interest and provides a hands-on experience into the inner workings of federal policy. If you are interested in our next trip please visit this site. 

Sabrina Solouki, PhD candidate in Immunology and Infectious Disease.