Advocacy Toolkit

Be an Advocate!  

"If You Are Not at the Table, You're On the Menu."

  • The President has proposed significant cuts to the NIH, NSF, and Department of Energy Office of Science budgets. This is depressing news for most scientists. 
  • That money funds scientists working in every district and state in the country. Many members of Congress do not know that is how their constituent scientists and organizations are funded. Thus, they don’t know that those budget cuts will hurt you, their constituents, in addition to the economy.
  • Congress is the government body responsible for setting the federal budget. The process of appropriating funds is underway now.

Now is the time to take your seat at the table and make sure science funding is not on the menu! 

Members of Congress are hearing from constituents and interest groups every day about why their issues matter.  They need to hear from scientists. They need to know that they have scientists in districts.  Take your seat at the table so that science is not on the menu of items to cut.

You don't even have to travel to Washington DC to meet with your representatives.  When Congress members are at home in their districts, it is the perfect time to set up a meeting at his/her local district office or invite the representative or senator to tour your research lab. These meetings are a great way to make a connection and show your politicians the research taking place right there in their district.

Don’t be intimidated! Congress members do want to meet and hear from their constituents. Plus, the Society is here to assist you in the process. 

ABCS of Political Advocacy

Elected officials hear from constituent and special interest groups every day. They are bombarded with information. To stand out and be effective, the messages you deliver have to be accurate, believable and clear (ABC). This applies whether you email, tweet, meet in person, or send a letter.

Accurate: The information presented to Members and their staff must be accurate. Have sources readily available and be prepared to provide further information after the meeting
Believable: Let the information sell itself; explain the possibilities, but do not exaggerate. Credibility is essential.
Clear: Keep the science simply. Remember, few outside the scientific community fully understand the language. When advocating for biomedical research, connect your research to a disease, its causes, and possible cures.

In the U.S.--Meetings with Members of Congress  or Their Staff

Face-to-face meetings

The Society hosted a webinar,  BPS Congressional District Visit Training, August 2017: Preparing for Your Meeting, on August 9, 2017 focused on members meeting with their Congressperson/Senators during the August recess. View the webinar.  The slides are also available:    

These are an effective way to deliver your message. And, as elected officials, members and their staff meet with constituents regularly. You don’t even have to come to Washington, D.C. to make this happen; meetings that take place in the local district office is a highly effective way to get your message across.  IF possible, recruit 3 to 4 advocates to join you; they could be other members of your lab, someone from your department, or even someone from another local institution/company.

Setting up the Meeting

  • Use the Find Officials search tool to identify your Congressman and Senators. This tool will also provide you with a website address and phone numbers.
  • Visit your elected official’s website to see if he/she accepts electronic meeting requests through the site. Fill out the form and submit. 
  • If they do not have an online form, either email for an appointment or call and ask to speak to the scheduler.
  • Whether you email or call, indicate who you are,  what you wish to meet about, and when. 
  • It is best to call at two to three weeks prior to the time you would like the meeting to occur. 
  • You will most likely have an appointment with a staff member in the office; this person is just as important as the elected official. He/she is tasked with knowing specific issues inside and out and are the eyes and ears of the Congressman. 

Preparing for the meeting

  • Do your research. Review and print out materials, such as these state information sheets prepared by FASEB and these state information sheets prepared by Research!America showing research funding in a particular district or state. Bring these sheets to your meeting to leave with the staffer.
  • Arrive early and expect to wait a few minutes before the meeting.
  • Know your message points; practice them out loud. Don’t be too technical, assume you are speaking to educated non-scientists. 
  • Have an action item/ask--know what you want the Congressman/woman to do.  
  • During your meeting, use a combination of both data and stories of individuals to explain the importance of your issue. 
  • Make a connection: brother-in-law worked on your campaign, our university’s physics department is the largest in the state, our work could help find a cure for…; 
  • Be responsive, offer to follow up after the meeting with more specific information about questions the Member of Congress has. 
  • Ask to take a photograph with the individuals with whom you meet.

After the meeting 

  • Send an email thanking the staff member or Congressman after the meeting. Summarize what you discussed and what you want the Congressman/woman to do.  Provide any follow-up materials requested. Use this as an opportunity to reinforce your message. Here are sample thank you notes.
  • Check in periodically with an email. Let them know if there is something happening at your organization or in your lab that might interest them.
  • Thank the Congressman/woman and/or staff for meeting with you on social media.  Attach the picture. Tag the official or post on their feed.
  • Send an email to the Biophysical Society and let them know how the meeting went.

Attending a Town Hall Meeting

Another great way to meet your member and get your issues on their radar is to attend a town hall meeting and ask a question. Members schedule these throughout the year; sometimes in person and sometimes via phone. Find a town hall meeting near you. You can also check a specific members Facebook page or Twitter feed for upcoming events.  

Be prepared with your question in advance of the meeting.  When the time arises, be prepared to introduced yourself, your affiliation, and ask your question succinctly.   

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • I am a researcher funded by the National Institutes of Health. Do you think funding for medical research should be a federal priority?
  • Biomedical research faces deep cuts. Members of Congress seem to agree these cuts will be devastating, but they can't agree on how to avoid them. Do you understand how these cuts will be harmful to this community and your constituents, and what are you planning to do to protect the NIH?
  • Can I count on your support for increasing funding for fundamental scientific research?
  • President Trump proposed a budget that would cut the National Institutes of Health by 20 percent. I am outraged. How are you going to help protect funding for medical research?
  • I am a researcher that relies on the Department of Energy's National Labs to conduct my research.  These labs are slated for significant cuts by President Trump's budget proposal.  Can I count on you to fight to protect funding for these invaluable cost effective national resources?

International Advocacy

The way you find your elected officials and set up a meeting are different, but the tenants of advocacy are the same around the globe: you need to prepare, know where the individual you are going to meet with stands, and be clear about what you are asking them to do.  That message can be as simple as support research funding.  

Need help?

The Society office is here to help! Send an email to Ellen Weiss at if you would like assistance preparing for a meeting.