PAO: Policy Activities » BESC-CoFARM Congressional Visits Day 2007

The Ecological Society of America helped organize the Spring 2007 Congressional Visits Day event sponsored by the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and the Coalition on Funding Agricultural Research Missions (CoFARM). Held this year on April 18 and 19, the event was timed to influence the annual federal appropriations process. ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winners Dena Vallano (Cornell University) and Tom Morrison (Dartmouth) as well as former ESA Vice Presidents for Education Alan Berkowitz (Institute of Ecosystem Studies) and Carol Brewer (University of Montana) participated in the event, along with nearly 40 other scientists from around the country.

The focus of the event was to bolster Congressional support of the agricultural and biological sciences, particularly at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The National Research Initiative (USDA's competitive grants program) and the Biological Sciences Directorate at NSF have both suffered from flat funding for the past five years.

Teams of scientists from 23 states, representing thirteen scientific societies and organizations, spent their first day in Washington listening to presentations by a federal budget expert, the NSF's Assistant Director for Biology, the Deputy Administrator for the USDA Competitive Programs, a representative from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and a Legislative Assistant from the office of Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA). Staff from sponsoring organizations served as team advisors for the scientists and prepared them for their meetings during an orientation.

An evening reception was held to honor Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Kit Bond (R-MO) in recognition of their support for the agricultural and biological sciences. Constituents of the Senators presented them with the BESC-CoFARM awards and Sens. Harkin and Bond offered their perspectives on the federal funding picture.

The next day, the scientists and their team advisors met with over 70 Congressional offices, including meetings with ten Members of Congress. Overall, the message of increasing funding for the NSF BIO Directorate and the USDA NRI was well-received by the Congressional offices. ESA, along with other members of the BESC and CoFARM coalitions, will continue its efforts to enhance support for the biological and agricultural sciences.

ESA graduate students Dena Vallano and Tom Morrison share their experience on their blogs about the event on ESA News and Views.