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Find Your Science at GSA
Novem Auyeung and Del Valle
Novem Auyeung and Del Valle at the Capitol
Novem Auyeung and Del Valle meet with Kathy Benedetto
Novem Auyeung and Del Valle meet with Kathy Benedetto, a fellow geoscientist who staffs the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources

Congressional Visits Day

Tanya del Valle

April 2012 was my second time participating in the Congressional Visits Day (CVD) event that trains geoscientists to share facts and funding priority needs with their elected decision makers in Congress. I first participated in 2010 as an undergraduate, when budgets were expanding and visions of increased research funding for geosciences seemed highly likely. This year, the economic climate and funding prospects for research, especially basic science research, were dim. Perhaps now more than ever when budgets are the leanest, decision makers need to hear from their constituents about what it is important to them.

While I can think of many relevant theories, science, and other data I would enjoy sharing with my Indiana representative and senators, my non-partisan message was a simple one: Funding agencies like NASA, NOAA, NSF, and the USGS are vital for economic growth and directly affect individuals in their district, such as my colleagues and me. I used examples from my Indiana University geology department to show how funding by NASA, NSF, and the USGS makes a difference and allows research and science to happen, not in some far-away lab but in their home district. I was able to honestly say that without past funding from NSF, many of the tools and equipment used to accomplish research would have been difficult or impossible for a university to fund. If any message lingered after my visit, it was that not funding NASA, NSF, NOAA, and the USGS would hurt their district and constituents and that basic science is essential to economic growth.

Without a doubt, as a geologist, you can probably name several ways that research funding for the USGS and NSF as well as other agencies directly affect your field area. That is the message that decision makers contemplating complex and difficult budget cuts across many fields need to hear. GSA, AGI, and AGU provide a valuable training course each year with experienced scientists to help prepare your message and schedule meetings with your members of Congress. Groups are paired by state and are accompanied by individuals who help you deliver your message in a way that will reach your audience.

After experiencing the Congressional Visits Day twice, I have gained a profound respect and better understanding of the difficult tasks our policy makers must undergo, especially in the current budget climate. My experiences have also opened up career areas after graduation that I previously had not considered, such as a fellowship as a science advisor. Whether you are a student or a seasoned professional, as a geologist you can provide valuable information to your elected officials. Congressional Visits Day is an excellent beginning for developing relationships that allow an exchange of knowledge between geologists and elected officials.