Scientists Connect with Policymakers on Capitol Hill

Washington, D.C. – Scientists from across the country gathered on Capitol Hill for two separate events promoting science research and education.

The events, hosted by the Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group (SETWG) and the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), were widely attended – both events included visits with congressional members and a reception with lively chatter and colorful displays of groundbreaking scientific research.

STEM on the Hill event

STEM on the Hill” day is a two-day annual event organized by SETWG, an informal group of over 30 professional scientific and engineering societies (including the Geological Society of America – GSA), college-level associations and companies, and trade associations.

STEM on the Hill included a Capitol Hill reception and exhibition that took place on the evening of the 12 April and attracted over 550 attendees, many of whom were students. GSA partnered with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU) for their reception exhibit, which featured the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). The exhibit highlighted EERE’s work on geothermal energy – energy derived from reservoirs of hot water below Earth’s surface.

EERE shared information on its Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) program, which is an initiative to research drilling technologies that will help scientists more easily identify a reliable, commercial way to efficiently extract geothermal energy. The exhibit also provided materials for K-12 teachers that help explain renewable energy, including geothermal energy.  

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The Department of Energy’s EERE department highlights geothermal energy during the STEM on the Hill reception in April 2016. Credit: Kasey White.

Other exhibitors included the National Science Foundation, which highlighted its Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research program and the Optical Society, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year.

During the reception, SETWG presented Representatives G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) and Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Chris Coons (D-DE) with the George E. Brown Jr. Award for leadership in STEM education. The award acknowledges the congressmen’s support of policies that benefit scientists, engineers, and students.

CNSF Capitol Hill Exhibition

CNSF’s Capitol Hill Exhibition is an annual event in its 22nd year. The exhibition is a chance for academic institutions to showcase research funded by NSF for policymakers and colleagues. CNSF is an alliance of over 140 science societies, universities, and businesses that work together to advocate for national investment in NSF’s research and education programs.

The exhibition took place on the evening of 26 April and included posters and displays highlighting a wide breadth of research, from entomology to genetics to geology. France Cordova, Director of NSF, and Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS), met and chatted with participants about their research.

GSA, AGU, and AGI collaborated on an exhibit featuring Texas A&M graduate student Wilmarie Marrero-Ortiz’s research on how air quality can affect health. Marrero-Ortiz chatted with attendees about how air pollution has been correlated with low birth-weight, among other health impacts. She emphasized the importance of sharing information with the public and policymakers to help create effective environmental policies. “We cannot wait until [health impacts] happen to take policy action for mitigation and/or adaptation,” she said.

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Texas A&M graduate student Wilmarie Marrero-Ortiz presents her research on how air quality can affect health at the CNSF reception in April 2016. Credit: Kasey White.

By Elizabeth Goldbaum, GSA Science Policy Fellow

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