A Letter to Congress

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A Letter to Congress

SPS member requests increased support for science funding


by Eric Beier, Class of 2015, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

Washington State University

Photo courtesy of Eric Beier.This spring I sent a letter to Senator Patty Murray, who represents my state and sits on the Budget Appropriations Committee. I think it is important that the United States increase its funding for science research, and politics seemed like fun, so I decided to get involved.

Writing a letter fit for a senator was daunting, but I had help. The American Physical Society (APS) offered me advice and reviewed what I had written. I learned to make my argument concise and not try to fluff my language. Senators are busy, and I didn’t want my letter to end up in a stack somewhere.

Putting the letter in the mailbox was one thing, but I really wanted to make an impression. So I also tried to schedule a meeting with the senator. After two months of persistent calls, I was able to arrange coffee with her Eastern Washington director, John Culton. We spoke casually for an hour about technology and the internal politics surrounding science policy. He explained Murray’s three priorities—infrastructure, education, and research—and taught me the current buzz phrase for science funding, “centers of excellence.” Even months after the experience, I still feel like I have a valuable ally in John.

My letter had no instantaneous results, but it helped me to build new relationships with people such as the government relations staff at APS, who provided invaluable guidance. The experience also gave me confidence to move ahead in this field of work. I have since been thinking about ways I could help to promote the benefits of government-funded research to the public.

I strongly believe that this sort of work is valuable to the scientific community and encourage you to reach out. Write a letter. Call the offices of your policy makers. Don’t give up until you have scheduled a meeting and made your voice heard!

Read the Letter

March 12, 2014
The Honorable Patty Murray
10 North Post St., Suite 600
Spokane, WA  99201

Dear Senator Murray, 

Since 1970, the United States investment in physical sciences and engineering research, as a percent GDP, has been cut by almost 70 percent. During the same time period high-tech manufacturing in the US has also declined, both in the US share of total world output and also in exports.

We, the students who are devoting our undergraduate years to the rigor of math and science, feel that the technologies we want to create will make up the economy of tomorrow. At Washington State University, we are working on advanced materials and optics that will create new sources of energy and more efficient communications. In this increasingly competitive and globalized environment, these new technologies will give the US advantages in production and commerce. It is important for us to feel that Congress shares our passion about creating a positive future in America.

Robust funding not only stimulates our economy, but also the minds of the next generation of innovators. Well-known scientists have gained social media popularity by relating advanced concepts to the non-technical portion of the population. At Washington State University, the number of enrolled Physics Undergrads has grown in response to this trend. This growth will need to be met with the appropriate funding to nurture it. 

Recently you, along with Paul Ryan (R-WI), forged a bipartisan budget agreement that outlined two years of federal spending. Your hard work was instrumental in allowing science funding to recover from the damaging sequester this year. We ask that, as the next step, you support real growth for US investment in scientific research in Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills. 


Eric Beier

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