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Tips for writing to your Member of Congress

Find the appropriate time: When you are writing to request action on a specific bill, key your outreach to appropriate points in the legislative process, such as after a bill has been introduced (in the case of seeking co-sponsorship) or in the lead-up to a vote (when you want to request a "yes" or "no" vote on the bill).

APSA alerts its membership to critical junctures for outreach connected to political science funding and connects members to online portals that allow quick communication to Members of Congress.

Contact only your member of Congress: Members have electronic mail sorting systems that remove out-of-state e-mails. Find your representative here and visit her or his webpage for more information.

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 piece of legislation.

Be brief and concise: Staffers may get hundreds of letters each day. You want to get their attention quickly.

Be courteous: Be positive and polite in your communication.

Include personal stories: Tell members of Congress 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.

ABCs for meeting with Members of Congress

Plan a Visit

Schedule the visit: Call or email the district office of your Member of Congress to set up an appointment with the Member of Congress or staff from the office. If you are in Washington, DC, schedule a visit there. (See House and Senate legislative calendars to determine the best timing.) Explain that you are a constituent who is interested in meeting with the Member or her staff to discuss the importance of federal support for political science. See COSSA's Advocacy Handbook for more specifics on requesting a meeting.

Have reasonable expectations: You may receive a short meeting with staff and not the Member. This is not a sign of disrespect; staffers are trained to take notes and communicate with the Member about the issues.

Prepare: You may need to inform the staffer or Member about the issues, so be prepared with concise talking points and relevant materials. Prepare your core message in advance. Use APSA's talking points for messages connected to political science funding and develop your own message connected to your specific research. A one-page handout that is easy to read is also helpful. Be sure to bring business cards.

See the tools and tips page from APSA's Public Engagement Program for more information on crafting a message and preparing one-pagers.

Make a Visit

Arrive early: Plan for time to pass through security and to find the appropriate room. Long lines are common at Senate and House office buildings in Washington.

Keep it brief: Lead with your main points.

Take your cues: In some cases, your meeting may be a back-and-forth conversation with the elected official or staffer. In other cases, you may be expected to lead the conversation. If this is the case, use your time to convey your key points concisely, include any requests, and thank the Member or staffer for her time.

Explain broad effects: While not all political scientists receive federal grants, it is useful to note the broader impact of basic research funding for the social sciences.

Follow up: After your meeting, send a thank you note via email to the staffer or Member you met with. Provide any follow-up materials you think might be useful.

Other ways to advocate for political science

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:

  • Call the opinions editor beforehand to see if the paper is interested in the topic.
  • Be brief: use clear and concise arguments.
  • Use a simple format, with a clear and timely introduction that states your argument, concise body text to support your point and convey its relevance, and a strong conclusion with your recommendations. Find an example here.
  • See the tools and tips and resources pages from APSA's Public Engagement Program for more information on writing an op-ed.

Participate in Advocacy Days: The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) and the National Humanities Alliance(NHA) hold annual meetings and advocacy days each spring. The annual meetings provide an overview of recent legislative developments affecting social science and humanities funding and discuss how to carry out effective advocacy on Capitol Hill. Advocacy days allow scholars to visit congressional offices, discuss the importance of political science research, and express support for strong funding for the discipline.

Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest information from APSA and APSA partner organizations that advocate for the discipline.

Talking Points

Talking Points on Political Science

  • Political science research expands our understanding of citizenship, governance, and public policy. The discipline makes an essential contribution to well rounded and comprehensive public debate in a free society.
  • Political science is at the forefront of research on critical topics ranging from building democracy and good governance to counter-terrorism, public health, and disaster relief.
  • Political science research is an integral part of a robust national science program, through both the unique findings of the discipline and its role in multidisciplinary research.

Talking Points on Funding

Restricting political science research by limiting – or eliminating – funding 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 of funding – or elimination – poses a serious threat to the integrity and independence of the national science agenda by

  • thwarting 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.
American Political Science Association
1527 New Hampshire Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036-1206
(202) 483-2512 • Fax: +1 (202) 483-2657

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