What is Advocacy?
Advocacy means to express support for a cause. In the sciences, that often means advocating for public awareness or evidence-based decision making. Any person or group can be an advocate, and there’s no singular way to get involved. No matter your location, schedule, or education level, one can become an advocate for science. See our guide and resources below to learn more!
Ways to Advocate
How to advocate depends on a few things, so you should ask yourself:
- What do I want to advocate for?
- How much time can I commit?
Most likely, you already have a cause/policy in mind. If that’s the case, you should think about how much time and brainpower you’re willing to designate for this cause. The figure above is a rough guide as to where the most common forms of advocacy fall in this regard. Keep in mind that your experience may vary! Expanding on some of those ideas:
- Join a Mailing List
A mailing list is a quick way to stay up-to-date on the latest science policy matters. You can read the newsletter on your commute, during your lunch, etc. While it’s easy to get enthusiastic and sign up for a bunch of lists, we recommend keeping it to a minimum at first to avoid getting overwhelmed. Find a list that appeals to your needs AND your frequency (daily, weekly, monthly). And be sure the letters aren’t going to your spam! These are a few of the free mailing lists you can join:
Other organizations may send out policy updates and newsletters to members only, such as most professional societies, AAAS, and others.
- Call/Email Your Legislator
Everyone has the right to contact their elected officials, and you definitely should. While you might not get to speak with them directly, or even get a response at all, most legislators have aids that read constituent emails, listen to their voicemails, and answer the phones. Aggregate information is summarized and given to the legislator. If they receive many calls or emails about a topic, it’s likely that information will make it back to them directly. So how can you contact your officials? USA.gov has several helpful resources, which we can summarize here:
|I want to contact my…|
NJ: Find My Rep!
Find My Rep!
As a side note, it’s also beneficial to let your elected officials know when you’re pleased with an action that they’ve taken, so you’re also encouraged to write/call them when that happens!
Any social media can be used to connect and learn, but Twitter seems to be a top choice for many in science policy and advocacy. Not only can you get your message out quickly (and succinctly) and create a following, but you can Tweet directly at your elected officials, organizations, and government agencies. Use hashtags like #SciPol or #SciComm to get started.
Be heard at the ballot box! Voting (and encouraging others to do so) is the best way to make your voices known. This includes not only voting in the high-profile elections (e.g. presidential), but also in state and local elections. Not all states vote at the same time, so you should check with your state. See our page on Voting for more information and resources!
*SPAR also acknowledges that voting is an action that only U.S. citizens can participate in, and that the ease of participation may vary for people depending on a variety of factors.
- Attend a Committee Hearing
Attending a committee hearing can give you insight as to how decisions are made. You can attend hearings in D.C., your state capitol, or even more locally. You can find the legislative calendar online typically. For example, check out the NJ State Legislative calendar. Some committee hearings are private due to security issues; however, many are open to the public, especially at the state and local level.
- Talk with your Friends and Family!
Talk about your science advocacy interests with your immediate circle. It can be difficult or even uncomfortable when viewpoints don’t align; however, you know your friends and family best, and the first rule of Science Communication is to know your audience! You can practice with those closest to you and receive honest feedback about your ideas and arguments. For more on talking about science, check out our SciComm page.
- Run for Office
If you are really passionate, run for office! More and more scientists are starting to run for local, state, and even federal office. 314 Action is an organization that helps scientists run for office. You can check out blogs, Twitter, and other sites to hear more about personal experiences of running for office from scratch.
- Join an Organization
See if your university has a science policy/advocacy group like SPAR (or create one yourself!) Smaller, more localized groups have the benefit of being easily accessible. Outside of the university, there are countless local, state, national, and even global groups – many of which have local factions, such as the Science March. Professional societies and academic organizations often have a policy or advocacy division as well. See the list of organizations below.
Science/Science Policy Advocacy
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
- Science Action and Advocacy Network (ScAAN)
- 500 Women Scientists
- Science Debate
- Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)
- You can also check out your professional society in your field For example, the American Chemical Society, the American Psychological Association, and the American Society for Cell Biology have policy/advocacy factions that you may be able to get involved with.
Graduate Student Advocacy