Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD)
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What is GEO-CVD?
Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD) is an annual event sponsored by the Geological Society of America in conjunction with other Earth science societies, to increase the visibility of and support for the geosciences in Congress. Participants in GEO-CVD have an opportunity to meet with members of their state’s congressional delegation and staff from congressional committees that have jurisdiction over geoscience issues.
Congressional visits are an important way to bridge the gap between research and policy and reinforce the lines of communication between scientists and legislators. This is a great opportunity to have a direct impact on the process of government and to expand your science communication skillset!
A recent participant lauded the workshop and visits: "I think CVD is the best groundwork, in that it’s a good way to get some grasp on the federal process. The CVD program does that really well."
What happens during the Geosciences Congressional Visits Day?
GSA makes it easy for you to go on a Congressional visit. Our staff will create a schedule for you and arrange your training.
Participants begin with an afternoon orientation program that includes background on current legislation, the organization and structure of Congress, and strategies to build relationships between scientists and policymakers, as well as how to conduct effective visits. Participants join teams based on their geographic location and are paired with a society staff member who will accompany them on visits. We also invite participants to attend the annual USGS Coalition awards and reception, which takes place on Capitol Hill.
The second day of GEO-CVD is devoted to congressional visits. During visits, participants discuss a planned “ask” or message with congressional members and their staffers. Asks could include requesting support for legislation, increasing or maintaining the budgets for funding geoscience research, or offering expertise to an office in the future. In every case, going on a visit is a chance to offer yourself as a resource for members and their staff.
Considering going on visits
All GEO-CVD participants receive training in a half-day workshop the day before the visits, but here are a few thoughts on preparing for meetings:
- Visits are all about knowing who you are talking to and adapting your discussion to your audience.
On Congressional visits, you may be speaking to people who have very little science background, but who respect your expertise and are interested in listening to you. It’s great practice in ‘translating’ your science to make it more applicable and accessible to the general public.
- You’ll make the most impact with a clear, concise message.
You will be given an “ask” for the visits, which may have to do with legislation or budget items we hope the member will support, or may simply involve offering yourself as a resource for the member. Practice your ‘elevator speech’ and avoid the urge to lecture!
- Being informed about the issues from the legislative side will help.
If you’re aware of what legislation the member sponsors, the issues they’re concerned with, and what committees they’re on, it will help keep the discussion relevant and productive. Meetings are often short, and if you show the member and staff that you’re taking the visit seriously, they’ll remember you and your message.
- A professional appearance matters.
On a visit, you want to present a professional face. Suits and business attire are the norm on Capitol Hill, but you should also wear comfortable shoes and avoid carrying too much baggage, as you will be doing a lot of walking. Business cards are a must.
- Preparation begins at your home institution.
Many universities and organizations have policy/relations officers whose job is to help prepare employees for this kind of activity. Talk with yours in advance! And if anyone you know has been on a visit before, use them as a resource.