Public Scholarship Series Recap
FABBS, in conjunction with the Scholars Strategy Network, is continuing our June Series on Public Scholarship with conversations regarding strategies and opportunities to elevate public scholarship efforts in academic departments.
Connecting with Congressional Offices brought together experts in building relationships with lawmakers and translating research to policy. Speakers included:
- Parisa Parasafar, PhD: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), U.S. Federal Policy Fellow in the Child Development and Behavior Branch
- Taylor Scott, PhD: Research-to-Policy Collaboration (RPC), Co-Director
- Joanna Ten-Kate: Scholars Strategy Network (SSN), Policy Associate
Panelists discussed roles within science policy and advocacy, described the relationship-building process with policymakers, and examined how research can inform legislation. A key takeaway was the importance of developing trust and building a relationship; Ms. Ten-Kate emphasized that policymakers seek evidence and research from trusted partners.
The panel shared concrete advice about interacting with congressional offices. Ms. Ten-Kate suggested researchers define their audience by identifying shared interests and priorities, committee and caucus memberships, or important constituencies. Dr. Scott advised that researchers establish contact with policymakers through brief emails and conduct meetings in a policy-neutral manner. Both speakers emphasized the significance of transparency, active listening, and flexibility when communicating with congressional staff.
Connecting with Federal Agencies shifted from Capitol Hill to the executive branch, with a look at how scientists can engage with agencies to influence funding priorities and bring their research to bear on social policies. Joining the panel to discuss opportunities and strategies for engaging with federal agencies, were:
- Ann Rivera, PhD: Senior Social Science Research Analyst, Administration for Children and Families
- Vivian Tseng, PhD: FABBS Board Member and Senior Vice President at the William T. Grant Foundation
- Jeremy Wolfe, PhD: Director, Harvard Medical School Visual Attention Lab
Dr. Wolfe, Director of the Visual Attention Lab at Harvard Medical School, shared his experience working with the National Institutes of Health to break through red tape for behavioral scientists. By expanding the definition of “clinical trials” to include any study involving human subjects, NIH unintentionally created excessive bureaucratic burdens for basic behavioral science. Dr. Wolfe was able to drum up support in the community and bring the issue to the attention of NIH leadership, eventually leading to a different set of rules for Basic Experimental Science with Humans (BESH). Jeremy shared the lessons he learned from the experience, especially the importance of finding allies and treating policy makers as partners working toward a mutually beneficial goal.
Dr. Rivera, Senior Social Science Research Analyst for The Administration for Children and Families, shared her perspective from within a federal agency. She emphasized the importance of building rapport with agency staff. Serving on review panels or expert commissions can be excellent opportunities to develop productive, ongoing relationships with policymakers at the agency level. Not only can this give a scientist direct influence, for example by having a say in what research is funded, but it allows one to become a trusted and familiar partner when agencies seek input on social policy.
FABBS hopes that researchers not only learned concrete skills to make federal government advocacy more approachable, but that they came away with a better understanding of the resources available to facilitate this work. Organizations including FABBS, Scholars Strategy Network, and Research-to-Policy Collaboration are here to help scientists looking to share their research with policymakers and translate their work for a broader audience.
FABBS greatly appreciates our speakers for sharing these insights. We hope to continue to foster discussions and develop resources to facilitate our members’ engagement in public scholarship. The Series continues June 23 and June 30 with Drafting a Policy Brief and How to Write and Place an Op-Ed, respectively. Register and view materials from past sessions.
FABBS and the Scholars Strategy Network have additional trainings and materials to support scientists interested in advocating for federal funding for science and sharing their research with policymakers, and translate their work for a broader audience.