Tips for Writing Your Member of Congress
Contact only your member of Congress: Members have electronic mail sorting systems that remove out-of-state e-mails.
Write about only one topic at a time: Mail is sorted by topic.
Ask precisely for action: Be clear about what you want
accomplished, whether it is a vote "yes" or "no" on a bill, or to sign on to a letter or a piece of legislation.
Be brief and concise and lead with your "ask": Staffers may get hundreds of letters each day. You want to get their attention quickly.
Be courteous and non-offensive: Be positive and polite in your communication.
Include personal stories: These can be very powerful messages to members of Congress. Tell them how a program or grant helps you in the classroom or with your research. Members of Congress often use these stories as examples in their floor speeches.
U.S. Postal Service: If you send in a letter by mail, be sure to include a return address. **Due to heightened security, all letters are radiated before entering member offices. Therefore, do not attach any photos, s, or plastic/photo paper as these will be destroyed by this process**
ABCs for Meeting with Members of Congress
Arrive early: Long lines are common at the Senate and House Office Buildings.
Be prepared with substantive information: You may need to educate the staffer or member on the issues. So go prepared with relevant materials and information on funding or programs that are specific to their district or yourself.
Create Handouts: Make or bring handouts on the issues that are easy to read and no longer than one page per issue.
District visits: If you cannot travel to Washington DC, schedule a meeting with your representative, or staff, in their district office. Meetings with district office staff are effective ways of advocating for anything including political science.
Explain broad effect of the issue you are promoting: We are trying to make the argument that while not all political scientists receive NSF grants, many of those projects that receive funds have a trickle down effect for the rest of the discipline.
Follow up with a thank you: After your meeting, send an e-mail to the staff member or office that you visited and thank them for taking the time to meet with you. If they asked you for any more information, include it in this message.
Give them your business card: They may have any additional questions.
Have reasonable expectations: You may have a short meeting with staff and not the member.
Often these staffers are young and may not know all the specifics about this issue. Do not take this as a sign of disrespect or indifference, this is just how member offices work. Staffers are trained to take notes and communicate the message to your member.
Include APSA talking points: It is important to communicate a relatively consistent message so it resonates with member offices and the media. Try to incorporate the talking points into your own arguments, using your own examples.
Other Ways to Advocate For Political Science
Invite your representative to your classroom: By inviting your senator, member of Congress, or their staff to your classroom you can show them first hand the impact of NSF funds and political science research. It also gives them an opportunity to interact with their own constituents who are benefiting from this funding.
Write an Op-Ed piece in your local newspaper: Members of Congress pay close attention to the local media in their district.
Tips for writing an Op-Ed
We have a two examples you may use here and here. You can learn more here (courtesy of the Op-Ed Project).
- Call the opinions editor beforehand to see if they are interested in the topic.
- Be brief: Use clear concise arguments.
- Simple format: One paragraph to introduce the issue, one to explain its importance, one its relevance to you, and relevance to the public.
Talking Points on the Political Science Program at NSF
Political science is the only discipline that systematically and scientifically examines political phenomena. It is essential to well-rounded, comprehensive and self-reflective public debate that is the foundation of a free society.
Restricting political science research by limiting – or eliminating – funding the National Science Foundation poses a serious threat to American democracy by
- undermining core democratic values such as transparency and accountability by obstructing evaluation of political institutions and processes;
- censoring public debate by limiting knowledge that informs discussion of critical issues facing the nation; and,
- jeopardizing the nation’s responses to domestic and international crises.
Singling out specific fields of science for limitation – or elimination – at the National Science Foundation poses a serious threat to the integrity and independence of the national science agenda by,
- thwarting the professional, scientific peer review, which is second to none in the world;
- subjecting all scientific fields to the slippery slope of political pressure; and,
- chilling inquiry, innovation, and creativity within and among all fields of study.