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Let Congress Know Postdocs Matter at the Rally for Medical Research
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Joyonna Gamble-George

 

Every year in September, thousands of people travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the Rally for Medical Research. Researchers, doctors, survivors, and other biomedical research advocates meet with lawmakers to discuss how funding decisions and policies are important to their lives. The American Association for Cancer Research started this rally in 2013. It is now supported by more than 300 national organizations and continues to grow. This year’s Rally for Medical Research will be held on September 13. It aims to ask policymakers to support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2019 and beyond. It also aids lawmakers in understanding that continuing investment in medical research and biomedical science saves lives and advances the United States economy.

 

Photo credit: Rally for Medical Research

Postdocs Are Vital to Medical Research Advocacy

There is a tendency for scientists to want to remain entirely politically neutral. However, appropriate funding requires that people advocate for medical research. Postdoctoral scholars can tell their story to lawmakers as the newest and perhaps most passionate members of the scientific community. They can give a personal narrative about how adequate support for research affects their postdoc training and their ability to contribute to scientific discovery. This improves decision-making by lawmakers on policies that impact their contributions to the research enterprise.

 

Postdocs represent the next generation of researchers that will lead cutting-edge and life-saving efforts in biomedical research. Highly trained, but poorly paid, postdocs are the engines of discovery in scientific laboratories across the country. They train, mentor, and inspire diverse populations of students to follow in their footsteps as researchers. This makes postdocs the stepping stones to creating and maintaining a diverse, well-trained, and productive biomedical workforce.

 

Always remember that as a member of the postdoc community, you are vital to the future of the research enterprise, the public’s health, and the United States economic security.

 

Postdocs need funding support to get the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to establish independence as a researcher and secure a tenure-track faculty position or research position in an industrial or government lab. Increased NIH funding is important to cover their salaries and other benefits, such as healthcare. This allows postdocs to properly take care of themselves, provide financial support for their families, and cover other financial commitments like student and car loans, mortgage payments, child care or other living expenses. For Congress to know about the needs of postdocs, it is important for postdocs to lift their voices and make their message known at the Rally for Medical Research.

 

Photo credit: Rally for Medical Research

Get Ready for the Rally for Medical Research

Preparing for the Rally for Medical Research allows postdocs to gain more out of the experience. To begin with, postdocs should register for the Rally for Medical Research. In addition, postdocs can check out the rally resource materials from the previous year, such as talking points and the social media cheat sheet. Participants can prepare by finding science funding information or factsheets for their state or district. Understanding which committees the elected officials of their state serve on can help participants make individualized appeals. This information can be found by visiting the official website. Postdocs can also practice an elevator pitch about their research in preparation for communicating it succinctly to a broad audience.

 

During the Congressional office visits at the rally, postdocs can discuss the talking points clearly so that Congressional representatives or staffers understand what they are meeting about. It is important to refrain from discussing political opinions, and thank the office for their past support to ensure their future support of policies that impact the scientific community and NIH budget. After attending the rally, postdocs can send a note to the Congressional representatives and their staff to thank them for their time and to recap the talking points discussed in the meetings.

 

Pictured author Joyonna Gamble-George, PhD, MHA, is the chief operations, scientific, and medical officer at SciX, an early career policy ambassador for the Society for Neuroscience, and an associate editor of The POSTDOCket. Photo courtesy of Joyonna Gamble-George, PhD, MHA.

Having an Impact as a Postdoc

Postdocs can amplify the message about medical research in many ways. To tell others about the rally and why you are so passionate about it, you can use the following strategies to do this:

  • Launch a social media campaign. Use the rally style guide and flyer to mobilize people to spread awareness about this cause. You can also host a Twitter chat as a virtual panel or create a Facebook group page to muster support for the rally.
  • Host an advocacy event. Provide a space for the scientific community, the public, and policymakers to discuss how biomedical research is saving lives and how proposed policies can influence your life and the lives of those close to you. You can partner with organizations to host a panel, video screening, symposium, town hall meeting, speaker series, roundtable discussion, debate, brown bag seminar, or luncheon.
  • Engage with elected officials. Send emails, write a letter, or call your elected officials in the House of Representatives or Senate about the rally. You can also organize an email writing campaign among postdocs and others in the scientific community or invite elected officials to visit your lab to see biomedical research in action.
  • Write an op-ed in your local newspaper or a newsletter. Writing an editorial can garner support for the rally. It will let lawmakers and the public know how research and policies that affect your research might impact the lives of others.
  • Obtain hands-on science policy and advocacy training and experience. You can get this through professional associations, such as Research America, the Society for Neuroscience, and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and some academic institutions. These programs can teach you about how federal laws and budgets are passed and how they can affect the scientific community. They also can give you the tools needed to impact science policy change.

Always remember that as a member of the postdoc community, you are vital to the future of the research enterprise, the public’s health, and the United States economic security. Since this is election year, postdocs who publicly advocate for science and research funding for the NIH can be assured of having an impact. Postdocs can inform lawmakers and urge those that will comprise the new Congress to support policies that provide continued increases in NIH funding. Sustained growth in the NIH budget benefits society and leads to continued scientific progress. So, postdocs, lift your voice and let Congress know that you are important to the future of biomedical research at the Rally for Medical Research.

 

Joyonna Gamble-George, PhD, MHA, is the chief operations, scientific, and medical officer at SciX, an early career policy ambassador for the Society for Neuroscience, and an associate editor of The POSTDOCket.

 

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