II. Analysis of Current Government Affairs Environment
III. Taking the Next Steps: Strategies for the Future
A. Program Focus
B. Services to the Geoscience Community
D. Providing Geoscience Information to Policymakers
E. Interaction With Non-Governmental Entities
F. Program Staffing
G. Program Funding
IV. Implementation of the Plan
Appendix A. Government Affairs Sections in 1996
AGI Strategic Plan
Appendix B. Member Society Survey of Current Program and Future Directions
Appendix C. Communications Survey of Member Societies
Appendix D. Government Affairs Programs At Other Organizations
Appendix E. Key Congressional Committees and Federal Agencies
The Government Affairs Program (GAP) of the American Geological Institute was established in 1992 to provide the geoscience community with a source of information on issues affecting geoscientists and to allow the geoscience community to present a unified voice in Washington. The program has grown steadily due to support from Member Societies and the AGI Foundation. This Strategic Plan builds upon the AGI-wide plan completed in 1996 and represents a wide range of input from Member Societies on the scope and mission of GAP in the coming years as well as an assessment of the strengths, weaknesses, external opportunities and threats facing the program. Key points in the analysis include:
Currently, GAP's efforts are focused on Congress and the federal agencies. Future growth, in coordination with Member Societies, may be directed both to the state and international level.
SERVICES TO THE GEOSCIENCE COMMUNITY
GAP staff cover federal hearings, meetings and reports and advise Member Societies of this information via email, GAP's web site, and policy articles in Member Society publications and Geotimes. GAP staff also make presentations before Congress, Federal Agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as well as at Member Society meetings. GAP staff need to maintain and expand coverage of these activities and increase the dissemination of information to Member Societies.
Currently, GAP sends Action Alerts via email on timely issues. GAP should increase the number of geoscientists who receive Action Alerts and develop more targeted methods to develop an instant response on issues, such as a database of Citizen-Geoscientists. AGI must comply with all applicable congressional and IRS reporting requirements for lobbying and keep Member Societies informed of new reporting requirements that may affect them. Additional advocacy activities may be appropriate for GAP but will require additional funding and support. This should be an area that is carefully explored by the GAP Committee in the near future. GAP staff should expand contacts with key congressional committees and federal agencies and also aid geoscientists in holding meetings with Members of Congress and federal agencies. GAP should continue to hold Washington Advocacy Workshops on pressing issues.
PROVIDING GEOSCIENCE INFORMATION TO POLICYMAKERS
Beginning in 1998 with support from the AGI Foundation, AGI is sponsoring a Congressional Science Fellowship to increase the number of geoscientists on Capitol Hill and provide an additional opportunity for individual Member Society members to become directly involved with federal policy. AGI should investigate the feasibility of holding lunchtime briefings or receptions for congressional staff on geoscience issues relevant to pending legislation and expand the number of staff receiving complementary subscriptions to Geotimes. AGI should continue to testify before Congress and hold policy forums.
INTERACTIONS WITH NON-GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES
GAP should establish and maintain contacts with scientific societies, trade associations, and the National Research Council. GAP should become a more active participant in coalitions and develop AGI-led coalitions.
To maintain or expand its activities, GAP will have to increase its personnel from its current full-time Director and Program Associate and part-time Senior Advisor. Possibilities include expanding the internship program or hiring additional full-time personnel. GAP should strive to increase the involvement of advisory committee members and develop a network of volunteers in the Washington area and around the country.
In the short term, GAP should encourage continued growth in Member Society support for the program by keeping societies informed of GAP activities and demonstrating GAP's value to the societies and their membership. GAP should also identify additional sources of external funding for specific GAP programs such as fellowships and internships. In the long term, GAP should obtain foundation support for specific GAP initiatives and establish a fund for individual contributions to the program.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN
The strategies in this plan will remain no more than a blueprint unless they can be successfully implemented. Doing so will require the combined efforts of AGI, its Member Societies, and the many committed geoscientists who recognize the importance of bridging the gap between science and public policy. The community's message can best be conveyed by mobilizing individual scientists to become active constituents. AGI must work with the Member Societies to reach and activate their membership. The need for government affairs is just one aspect of a broader need for effective outreach to communicate the value of the geosciences to the public. In order to be successful, AGI's government affairs efforts must be combined with strong programs in public education and public information.
The American Geological Institute's Government Affairs Program (GAP) was initiated in 1992 in order to provide the geoscience community with a unified voice in Washington and a source of information on issues affecting geoscientists. Supported by AGI and its Member Societies, the program has grown in size and scope over the years, addressing a wide range of environmental, resource, hazards, education, and science policy issues.
When this program turned five years old in 1997, GAP Advisory Committee chairman Jim Gibbs and the Member Society representatives who make up the committee felt that the time had come for the program to take stock of its current activities and develop a blueprint for its future focus and growth. Beginning with an analysis of the current policy environment for the geoscience community, the plan then presents a set of recommendations for short- and long-term strategies to achieve program goals with separate sections on program focus, activities, staffing, and funding. Appendices include excerpts from the AGI-wide strategic plan and the results of stakeholder analysis of the current program and future directions.
This plan was developed with considerable input from the program's principal stakeholders -- AGI's Member Societies. An initial outline was approved by the GAP Advisory Committee, then questionnaires were sent to Member Society leadership about the program (SWOT analysis described below) and about communications between the program and the societies. From that input, staff developed an initial draft in consultation with strategic planning consultant William Sax of the Duke University Fuqua School of Business. The second draft was reviewed by the GAP Advisory Committee, targeted geoscientists with policy experience, and Member Society leadership. This final draft incorporates those comments. It will be reviewed by the GAP Advisory Committee in September, 1998 and presented to the AGI Member Society Counsel for its approval the following month.
Overall Vision and Priorities
The GAP strategic plan is meant to analyze the direction that the program has taken in its first six years and chart a course for the future, building on the objectives specified in AGI's 1996 Strategic Plan. That plan develops a series of vision statements for the Institute, several of which bear directly on the activities of GAP:
In addition to the direction provided by the AGI Strategic Plan, the Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee sets priority issues for the program. Although AGI does not advocate on all of the issues identified by the committee, it does seek to provide information on them, both to policymakers and to the geoscience community it serves:
Geoscience Community Description and Outlook
The geoscience community covers a broad range of disciplines and professions, all linked by a common commitment to understand the many different aspects of the Earth and its processes. This community is at a critical period where it must ensure that it positively responds to rapid changes taking place in education, employment, and government support. Geoscience education is transforming into a very different field as disciplinary boundaries become blurred and many geology departments merge with environmental science and related fields. Changes in education mirror changes in the private sector where employment shifts have occurred from traditional petroleum and mining jobs to remediation and restoration jobs in the environmental sector then back again towards energy exploration. The shifting employment sands have brought geoscientists into contact with a wider array of environment and resource policy issues than ever before.
Outlook for Government Role in the Geosciences
The role of government in the geosciences has also been undergoing major change. The threats in recent years to abolish or downsize federal geoscience agencies are reflected at the state and local level as well. Many in Washington and across the country are rethinking the role of the federal government, seeking to devolve responsibilities to the states and shrink the size of government as a whole. Both Congress and the Administration have committed to a balanced federal budget with reductions focused on domestic discretionary spending that includes the bulk of funding for geoscience research, education, and related activities. Future projected declines in government funding of research are not likely to be offset by increases in private-sector support for R&D. Recognizing that constrained budgets will be with us for many years, the geoscience profession must make an ever-stronger case for its relevance and value to society.
Government affects geoscientists in many ways beyond budgetary matters. For example, state and federal regulations determine how geoscientists work in areas such as hazardous waste cleanup, resource development, natural hazard mitigation, and watershed management. In addition, government owns significant amounts of land throughout this country, particularly federal lands in the West. At the state and local level, government determines how and whether geoscience is taught in school science curricula. These decisions will be informed by science only if scientists make the effort to become involved.
In all of these areas, the need for an effective liaison between the geoscience community and policy-makers will continue to grow. As an umbrella organization for the geosciences, AGI is uniquely positioned to serve as a point of contact for policymakers seeking objective geoscience information and for geoscientists seeking to become more involved in the policy process. AGI is well positioned to make Congress and the federal agencies aware of the large and interested geoscience community in the United States.
On consensus issues, AGI can advocate on behalf of the entire community. On issues where consensus does not exist within the geoscience community, AGI will assist Member Societies in advocating their positions or simply keep the community informed so that individual scientists can make their own decisions and communicate their views as concerned constituents to Congress or the federal agencies. Until all geoscientists become more effective advocates, the general goodwill that exists in Congress and the executive branch for science will not be enough to sustain support for the geosciences.
AGI Member Society Analysis of Current Program and Future Directions
As part of the strategic planning process, GAP sought input from AGI's Member Societies through a survey of GAP's internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis). Because communication is at the heart of GAP's purpose, a separate survey was conducted to obtain feedback on the program's various methods of communication. A full explanation of these surveys with results can be found in Appendices B and C.
The most commonly listed internal strength of GAP was the personnel. Good communication with member societies, timely production of legislative summaries and updates, and relevance of GAP activities to a diverse group of societies were also mentioned multiple times. AGI-wide assets that aid GAP are its location in the Washington DC area, the broad range of Earth science represented, and the inclusion of most geoscientists in AGI member societies. Reported weaknesses listed in the survey focused primarily on the small staff and budget constraints. Other weaknesses include the lack of strong press contacts, the inability to cover all issues, and the difficulty of taking unified positions on issues.
As much as GAP activities are characterized by internal strengths and weaknesses, they are also dictated by external trends. Opportunities for future GAP involvement are seen in science education policy, hazards issues, and coalition-building. Threats include decreasing federal budgets and a perceived lack of understanding in Congress of the importance of the geosciences. The diverse interests of the many societies and lack of an international division may also harm GAP in the future. Please see Appendix B for specific responses.
Most respondents rated GAP's communication of its activities to member societies and its communication of geoscience policy developments as excellent or very good, with email listed as the most effective method of communication. Both the Political Scene column in Geotimes and the geoscience and public policy special issues of Geotimes were rated highly. Other methods, such as Washington Advocacy Workshops and the web site also received high marks, but many respondents were not familiar with these resources. Suggestions for improved communication were presentations at society meetings, increasing emphasis on the effect of legislation on geoscientists, and providing articles and press releases for society magazines. Please see Appendix C for specific responses.
Feedback from Congress and Federal Agencies
As part of the process that went into developing this plan, program staff surveyed congressional offices and federal agencies to determine which program activities were most effective in reaching government. Several offices make regular use of the GAP web site as an objective source of information. It is more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of lobbying activities by the very nature of the situation. As a general comment, staffers emphasize that meetings with Members of Congress are most valuable when they take place back in their home state or district. Washington meetings, however, are an effective way to talk to professional staff who follow geoscience-related issues. Washington visits also provide an opportunity to meet with policy-level officials in federal agencies.
Government Affairs Programs at Other Organizations
In assessing AGI's government affairs efforts, we found it very helpful to meet with representatives from other scientific societies that have developed extensive government affairs initiatives over many years. The geosciences have been behind other disciplines in this area, and we have sought to benefit from the lessons learned and seek ways to apply their successes to our own efforts as well as to work with them on issues of mutual concern. Appendix C contains brief descriptions of several of these programs. In general, they vary widely in scope and focus. Some like the American Institute of Physics have developed extensive information services on budgetary and related science policy matters, whereas others like the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society (ACS) not only provide information but also actively advocate for their scientists. A few organizations have established separate Political Action Committees (PACs) to financially support political campaigns. Many focus exclusively on the federal government, although the larger programs such as ACS also have extensive state-level initiatives and are developing international initiatives as well. All are focusing their efforts increasingly on getting their membership to become more active constituents because Members of Congress are much more responsive to issues that affect voters in their district.
Member Society input and internal discussions have identified short-term and long-term strategies for the program to achieve its mission. The short-term strategies are those that can be accomplished with current or slightly increased staffing levels and funding in the next two years. The long-term strategies focus on the next five years and can only be accomplished with significant expansion of the program's size. These divisions are of course flexible and much depends on the program's growth and priorities set by its advisory committee. For the sake of organization, program activities have been grouped into four overlapping areas: services to the geoscience community, advocacy, providing geoscience information to policymakers, and interaction with non-governmental entities.
The AGI Government Affairs Program has focused its efforts at the federal level, tracking issues relating to the geosciences. GAP focuses much of its effort on congressional legislation and particularly the appropriations process, which has become almost synonymous with science policy in recent years under tight fiscal constraints. The program interacts with a number of key federal agencies that have substantial geoscience activities related to energy, natural resources, the environment, natural hazards, education, and research. Given its limited resources, the program has not focused on state or international issues, except for such instances as treaty issues that involve federal policymakers.
This category could include virtually all of GAP's activities, because the program exists to serve the Member Societies and their membership. More narrowly defined, these are activities focused on communicating policy information to the Member Societies, informing them and their membership of events in Washington that affect them. These activities represent the single largest percentage of total GAP effort and expense with a long-term goal of developing a better-informed community of geoscientists who will become active constituents and advocates on behalf of their societies and the profession as a whole.
Articles in AGI and Member Society publications -- An effective way to serve the Member Societies and to reach their membership is for GAP staff to write articles in Geotimes and Member Society publications. The GAP director writes a monthly "Political Scene" column in Geotimes, reporting and commenting on policy issues affecting the geoscience community. The program associate contributes a monthly policy-related news note. For the past three years, an annual special issue of Geotimes (March 1996, April 1997, April 1998) has been devoted to geoscience and public policy with articles by leaders in Congress and federal agencies as well as science policy experts outside of government. AGI's Member Society newsletter Geospectrum regularly contains articles on GAP activities and timely public policy issues.
Articles in Member Society newsletters, magazines, and journals can focus on policy issues that are more specific to the interests of a given society and make more individual geoscientists aware of the program and its value to the community. The program's senior advisor contributes a bi-monthly column to The Professional Geologist, which also features annual articles by the AGI/AIPG summer interns. GAP staff have contributed articles to the AAPG Bulletin and Explorer, Eos, Seismological Research Letters, and several other publications. The program also encourages republication of legislative updates and alerts in member society publications.
GAP advocates on behalf of AGI and the geoscience community as a whole as well as providing support for advocacy efforts of individual Member Societies. The program's advocacy activities are directed toward both Congress and federal agencies. Several of the activities in this section, such as making and arranging visits with lawmakers, are also undertaken for purely educational purposes and could also be considered in the following section on providing geoscience information to policymakers.
Action Alerts -- These alerts are sent to the same distribution list as the e-mail updates described above and are designed to solicit a response from Member Societies and their membership on timely issues that impact the geoscience community. Action alerts call on the Member Societies and individual geoscientists to generate feedback on a particular issue before Congress or federal agencies. Alerts provide background information on the issue and often provide a sample letter and relevant contact information.
Short-Term and Long-Term Strategy:
On many issues before Congress, AGI does not advocate a specific position but instead serves as a source of objective scientific information. AGI can accomplish this role both by developing information itself and by identifying other sources within the Member Societies or individual geoscientists who have the required expertise.
Congressional Briefings -- A number of scientific societies conduct lunchtime briefings or receptions for congressional staff on science issues relevant to pending legislation. These events are aimed at raising congressional awareness both of science-related topics and of the sponsoring societies. Conducting such briefings would represent a new initiative for GAP and would first require careful study and additional financial resources.
In order to be effective in Washington, AGI must work with scientific societies outside the geosciences and other organizations with related interests. These activities range from information-sharing to participation in advocacy coalitions and development of strategic alliances. These activities also reflect GAP's role as an outreach office for AGI, forming liaisons with other organizations and acting as an information source on AGI and the geosciences for media and others.
Maintain Liaisons -- Contacts with government affairs staff at other scientific societies and trade associations provide invaluable sources of information and potential partnerships for GAP. The program also maintains close ties with the National Research Council and in particular with the Board on Earth Science and Resources, a representative from which serves as a liaison to the GAP Advisory Committee.
Implementing the mission and goals of the Government Affairs Program requires the efforts of not only a dedicated full-time staff but also active volunteers in the geoscience community. Internships provide an excellent opportunity to augment the regular staff while providing a unique learning experience for geoscience students with an interest in public policy. A proposed senior policy fellow would build the program's ability to examine policy issues. The congressional science fellow operates wholly independent of GAP and is not discussed in this section.
Regular Program Staff -- The current GAP staff consists of a full-time Director and Program Associate as well as a part-time Senior Advisor. All three staff have both a geoscience and policy background. They all represent AGI in meetings with Congress, federal agencies, and other non-governmental organizations; write for Geotimes and Member Society publications; and provide updates and summaries for the GAP web site. The Director is responsible for developing advocacy and policy documents, organizing workshops and forums, providing congressional testimony, maintaining the GAP web site, and keeping the Member Societies fully informed of geoscience policy developments. The Senior Advisor lends his expertise primarily in resource issues and federal agency policy. Both of these individuals conduct presentations at Member Society meetings and universities on request. The Program Associate writes summaries and updates of legislation, attends hearings, maintains timely information on the web site, coordinates Capitol Hill and agency visits, responds to member society requests, and provides general logistical support for the program. All three individuals are congressionally registered lobbyists.
The principal constraint on the scope of AGI's government affairs efforts is financial. Support for the program has grown steadily since its inception. GAP is funded by voluntary Member Society contributions, the AGI Foundation, and AGI internal funds. AGI internal funds are used for lobbying activities with voluntary contributions assigned to non-lobbying expenses. Member Society support has nearly doubled since 1995. In 1997, nine additional societies supported the program, bringing the total to 27 of 31 Member Societies. Additional funds are needed for AGI to effectively expand its staff and range of focus. GAP has two options for raising money: increased support from the Member Societies or attract funding from foundations or other external sources.
Funding Requirements Over the Next Five Years
With all but four Member Societies supporting the program in 1997, the emphasis shifts from increasing the number of societies that contribute to maintaining that number and the levels at which they support the program. GAP staff must ensure that the Member Societies see valuable services in return for their contributions.
A second goal is increased funding from foundations. In addition to the current support from the AIPG Foundation for internships and the AGI Foundation for a congressional fellow, the program should seek funding for additional projects from other Member Society foundations, the AGI Foundation, and other foundations outside the geoscience community. Foundation support would be limited to activities not related to advocacy such as support for an additional Congressional Science Fellow, a Senior Policy Fellow at AGI, additional semester internships, and perhaps policy workshops and related publications. GAP could also encourage individual contributions.
Currently, the bulk of the program's funds go toward personnel and related office expenses with limited budgets available for travel, Washington workshops, advisory committee expenses, and other operating costs. The program needs an increased operating budget if it is to significantly expand its activities and its involvement of geoscientists in workshops or large-scale efforts to increase public awareness of the role played by the geosciences in their lives.
The importance of government affairs activities to the geoscience community will only increase in the coming years as tight budgets dictate an increasing need for justifications and demonstrated relevance for the geoscience profession. The strategies described in this plan are designed to meet the growing needs of the geoscience community in both the short and long term. Combined with the priority issues developed by the GAP Advisory Committee, this document should provide a blueprint for the future focus and activities of this program.
The strategies in this plan for future activities, staffing, and funding will remain no more than a blueprint unless they can be successfully implemented. Doing so will require the combined efforts of AGI, its Member Societies, and the many committed geoscientists who recognize the importance of bridging the gap between science and public policy. This plan should not be an isolated exercise but must be part of a continual process of review and looking to the future.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition that future support for science in this country can best be achieved by mobilizing individual scientists who can carry the community's message to Congress as a constituent and a voter. Those individual scientists are the membership of AGI's Member Societies. The challenge for AGI as a federation is to work with the Member Societies to reach and activate their membership. That challenge can only be met through close cooperation fostered by excellent communication. The future of GAP lies in its ability to achieve that goal.
The need for government affairs is just one aspect of a broader need for effective outreach to communicate the value of the geosciences to the public. In order to be successful, AGI's government affairs efforts must be combined with strong programs in public education and public information. The long-term health of geoscience in this country depends on public support and that in turn can only come from our community's own efforts to interest and inform the public. As important as it is to turn geoscientists into active constituents, our ultimate goal should be to reach a point at which individuals who are not geoscientists will communicate the importance and value of the geosciences to policymakers.
The entire AGI Strategic Plan is also available on this web site.
To work actively with Member Societies, Congress, and federal agencies to bring improved science into the decision-making process of public policy; to serve as a focused voice for the shared policy interests of the geoscience profession; to monitor and analyze legislation and policy developments affecting the geosciences; to provide improved scientific information to policy-makers; and coordinate and develop AGI congressional testimony and policy positions on national geoscience issues.
With defense and research spending down, entitlements up, and the deficit growing, government is pursuing change. The change now affects and will continue to affect the geosciences in major ways. The recent abolition of certain geoscience-related bureaus and programs and the threatened abolition of others, like the U.S. Geological Survey, are but current examples.
Goals and Strategies:
As part of the strategic planning process, input has been sought from AGI's Member Societies on the program's internal strengths and weaknesses as well as the external opportunities and threats facing it and the geoscience community.
SWOT Analysis of Capabilities and External Forces
As the first stage in our strategic planning, a survey was sent to member society presidents, executive directors, Member Society Council representatives, and Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee members. The survey asked these leaders to assess GAP's internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats which may impact our activities. Responses were received from 12 of the 30 member societies, with multiple responses from many societies. The following list represents all comments, with very minor editing and notice of duplication.
Director and staff (9)
Easy and seamless interface between staff
Increasingly good communication with member societies (4)
Informative web site (2)
Geotimes is a good communication method (2)
E- mail is an effective means of communication
AGI represents a broad range of Earth sciences (3)
AGI represents a majority of members of the geoscience community (2)
AGI is recognized as a strong organization
Timely production of legislative summaries and updates (2)
Objectivity in coverage of legislative issues
Relevancy of issues
Roundtable discussions provide important opportunity for geoscience community to become involved
Member Society Service
High standing of GAP among member societies
Mechanisms for grassroots input by volunteers from member societies
Relevance of GAP activities to all geoscience specialties
Focus on earth science
Ability to coordinate outreach to 30 very different societies
Prime location in DC (4)
Equality of treatment of member societies
Adequate financial resources
GAP has had viable successes and no substantial failures
Mission is of high significance
Staff too small (7)
Need a staff member with petroleum experience
Need to avoid bureaucracy
Lack of strong press contacts
Geotimes has a limited subscription - need ways to reach a larger audience
GAP is only weakly articulated with public affairs activities in non-geoscience professional societies
Cannot cover all issues- need to prioritize (3)
Lack of unified positions on important issues (2)
Excessive focus on solid-earth goescience issues (mapping bill, fossil dispute) rather than broader issues (energy policy, environmental management)
GAP does not have enough power on Hill (2)
Lack of position papers
GAP Advisory Committee
GAPAC members are not uniformly relaying GAP activities to member societies (3)
Need someone with congressional experience for GAPAC
Lack of policy experience among many GAPAC members
Budget too small (7)
Lack of travel support for volunteers to participate in policy activities (2)
No quantitative assessment of value of GAP
GAP is a new program
Big business/oil industry baggage
Internal communication/coordination problems
General interest in science education (5)
National standards debate/ Development of curricula (2)
Advocate geoscience policy study and activism as viable, legitimate, and necessary areas of intellectual and professional involvement
Expand intern program
Major policy issues emerging- hazards, water, energy (3)
Growing public awareness of need for earth scientists to address mineral availability and geologic hazards (2)
Lobbying -- both as AGI members and as constituents
AGI more effective when taking positions and writing position papers on issues (2)
Robust economy increasing need for geologists -esp. in Asia and Latin America
Natural resource companies are in good financial shape -- risk money can be raised easily
More influence when working with other groups, such as industry and environmental organizations (3)
Societies realizing value of unified voice (3)
AGU's reaffliation creates opportunity to speak with united and powerful voice
Scientists realizing they must be politically informed and active
Can be "voice" of each society and help them with their issues and strategies
AGI's 50th anniversary provides publicity
Financial support from big business
Target Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB)
Expand printed media
Budget cuts-ignorance of importance of science in Congress (3)
"cut to basics" -- need to ensure earth science is seen as a basic and important science
Extreme environmentalist position hurts credible geoscience decisions
Some issues divide geoscience community
No geoscience presence on Hill
Lack of acceptance of responsibility by all geoscientists for future of the profession
Resistance to change in profession
Lack of an international division
Competing advocacy activities of member societies
Activities of GAP or member societies may reflect poorly on other societies
Lack of geoscience literacy among Americans
Disinterest in science and math by students
Broader interpretations of lobbying and tax exempt status limits activities (2)
Potential for top down directed focus rather than bottom up
Complacency during good economic times and lack of military threats
Opposition to policy positions that enhance geologic employment
Because communication is at the heart of GAP's purpose, a separate survey was conducted to obtain input on the program's communications strategy. The survey was sent to recipients of the earlier SWOT analysis, as well as Member Society editors and public policy committees. Participants were asked to rate GAP's communication methods as Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor and provide additional comments and suggestions. The twenty-three responses received represent the views of 17 member societies. The results were mixed, ranging from a strong support of email alerts and updates to a lack of exposure to Washington workshops and the AGI web site.
1. How is GAP doing at communicating its activities to member societies?
2. How is GAP doing at keeping member societies informed of geoscience policy developments?
Very Good: 10
3. Rate the various methods of communication:
|Geology and Politics||10||6||2||1||0||3|
In order to learn from scientific societies with more government affairs experience, AGI staff spoke with representatives from a variety of scientific organization. Discussions centered around four main topic:
1. Does your society take positions and lobby or simply provide information to members?
2. If you lobby,
A. What process do you use to decide what position to take?
B. What methods do you use to convey your message to policy-makers?
3. How do you communicate information to your members?
4. General information on the society (tax status, staff size, member organizations, etc.).
AESOP is a nonprofit entity that serves as a scientific resource for Congress on agriculture-related issues. Its principal clients are the Tri-Societies (Soil, Agriculture, and Crop societies) and weed science societies. AESOP serves as a scientific resource for Congress. Government Affairs Director Keith Menchey explained the ease of gaining Hill contacts and noted it just takes a commitment. He suggested initial informational visits and occasional calls and visits. He also noted that attending hearings arranged by key staff members has also proved helpful. AESOP does not take positions on specific pieces of legislation unless requested. For general topics, decisions are made in several ways. For long-term projects, a position must be approved by the Board of Directors. Intermediate positions must be approved by the Executive Committee, which is comprised of the President, President-Elect, and Past-President of the Tri-Societies and the Tri-Society Executive Director. For policy that requires immediate action, the Committee for Policy Oversight, consisting of one Executive Committee representative from each society, must approve the position. Communications are made primarily to society leadership. An electronic newsletter is sent to the executive committee. A bi-monthly column appears in the Agriculture newsletter, along with a monthly column from a Congressional Science Fellow. Staff also write articles for weed society newsletters.
American Chemical Society
The ACS engages in both education and advocacy activities. Their efforts focus on chemical issues relating to employment, education, technology, research and the environment. ACS policy is established by a Board of Directors and its committees, with the president acting as a spokesperson. ACS uses several tactics to convey its message to Congress: visits to Capitol Hill; science-based briefings, such as the Science & the Congress lunch series, which are meant to provide information to staff members and do not take positions; intersociety efforts; membership involvement; and public affairs. ACS is involved at the state level, helping local groups set up the infrastructure for a successful grassroots effort. ACS involves its members through action networks, local section activities, training workshops, S&T councils, and awards. ACS communicates with its members primarily through newsletters and the web <http://www.acs.org/govt/>. ACS is the world's largest scientific society, with more than 155,000 members. The ACS Government Affairs Program has a $1.8 million budget and a staff of 24.
American Congress on Surveying and Mapping
Like NSPE, ACSM is a 501(c)(6) organization and has a small PAC that donates approximately $15,000 to the campaigns of key congressional committee members. It has four member societies as well as a sister society. The staff is comprised of a Director and one part-time employee. They are advised by a Joint Government Affairs Committee, which has approximately 12 members. The committee meets twice a year and occasionally holds retreats. They are currently in the process of determining a method for taking positions. ACSM writes letters, provides statements, and testifies on consensus issues. It communicates its actions and legislative developments via a column in the bi-monthly magazine that reaches all members. It also places a limited amount of information on its website at <http://www.landsurveyor.com>.
American Institute of Physics
AIP's science policy efforts are directed toward keeping the physics community informed about governmental plans and policies that might affect it and informing policy makers about the importance of physics research. A 501(c)(3) organization, AIP is a federation with 10 member societies. Their public policy staff produce FYI: The AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News, one of the best-known and most widely read news sources for policy developments in Washington affecting the scientific community. AIP also supports a congressional science fellow as do most of the societies interviewed for this plan. Their web site <http://www.aip.org/gov> emphasizes tools for scientists as constituents, including budget information, guidelines for communicating with Congress, and a FYI archive. AIP rarely takes positions on policy issues but does have a process in place by which a position taken by one of its member societies can be adopted by AIP.
American Physical Society
APS has a strong network for advocating positions. These positions must be approved by the Physics Planning Committee. Several times a year, APS contacts its Physicists and Government network, a list of approximately 1,000 physicists who have volunteered to write letters, make phone calls, etc. Efforts for larger projects can be much more encompassing. In a recent effort to try to pass the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, APS worked with media sources such as Nightline to run a story, prepared an editorial by past president -- and President Bush's Science Advisor -- D. Allen Bromley to run in major newspapers, created a letter from 22 Nobel laureates on the subject, and developed radio ads targeted to key congressional districts.
Ecological Society of America
ESA is a 501(c)(3) organization that focuses primarily on information dissemination. It transmits information through a weekly bulletin that is sent by request via email and also places the information on its web site: <http://www.esa.org>. The ESA Bulletin, which is received by all members, contains "A Public Affairs Perspective" column. ESA is gradually becoming more proactive, although it still does not take positions on specific pieces of legislation. A small group of officers recently visited with key congressional members to inform them of their role as a possible information source, and ESA plans to continue those visits quarterly. ESA is also involved in science community-wide activities, such as the Science, Engineering, and Technology Work Group, that provide a forum to learn about broader issues.
Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, United States of America
IEEE is an international organization with 320,000 members in 37 societies, but its government affairs program is run out of its IEEE-USA section with 220,000 US members. IEEE-USA is a 501(c)(3) organization that has elected to file under 501(h) to clarify allowable amounts of lobbying. The total government affairs staff, including communications and human resources, numbers 28 and has an operating budget of approximately $4 million. Five staff members work full-time on government affairs.
The United States Activity Board is comprised of IEEE-USA representatives and officers. It has 2 councils: technical policy and career interests. These councils oversee committees on subjects such as R&D, aerospace, and computers. Each society is asked to nominate a representative to all the committees, and at-large members are named for their expertise. The committees range in size from 20-50 members and meet 4-6 times per year. Most of the work is done in committee, as each committee develops positions and legislative agendas. Once a position is recommended by a committee, it must be approved by the council and then the board, a process that generally takes several years. Once a general position has been approved, IEEE-USA can be proactive on similar issues that arise. The position papers can also be used to write letters, develop testimonies, conferences, congressional fellowships, briefings, and information for hill visits. IEEE-USA has a small grassroots lobbying effort. They have created distributions lists from constituents that have expressed an interest in specific issues. For example, someone who is interested in pension issues will get updates on pension legislation and be asked to contact Congress when necessary. IEEE-USA also uses conferences as a method of grassroots lobbying by asking members at meetings to write letters while they are there. Government affairs staff then deliver the letters.
National Society of Professional Engineers
The NSPE is a coalition of local and state professional engineering chapters with a total membership of 45,000. NSPE has 501(c)(6) tax status as a trade association, which means it has a greater ability to lobby than a 501(c)(3) organization like AGI. For example, NSPE has its own PAC that contributed $76,000 to campaigns in 1996. NSPE employs four full-time government affairs staff members. According to information on its website, "the NSPE Government Relations effort targets both federal and state legislative and regulatory issues, focusing on issues important to licensed professional engineers. Primary issue areas include engineering licensure and specialty certification, professional liability and tort reform, infrastructure, construction job site safety, procurement of engineering services, professional standards, engineering education and research, retirement income, volunteer protection, competitiveness, the environment, and energy, among others."
The NSPE Legislative and Government Affairs Committee meets quarterly to discuss issues and take positions on recent developments. The society has issue briefs -- which include a society position and background information -- on approximately 50 issues, available on their web site. They also communicate information through a section in the society newsletter, an update to active members, and alerts to "engineering ambassadors," a group of 1,400 engineers who have indicated that they "have personal or business contacts with U.S. Senators or Representatives and are willing to contact them on issues of concern to the engineering profession." Ambassadors typically receive four to five Legislative Action Requests each year. Sign-up is available on the web site <http://www.nspe.org>, which contains all the issue briefs mentioned above, but does not track current policy developments.
Committee on Agriculture
Committee on Appropriations
Committee on Commerce
Committee on Education & the Workforce
Committee on Resources
Committee on Science
Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
Committee on Agriculture
Committee on Appropriations
Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation
Committee on Energy & Natural Resources
Committee on Environment & Public Works
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Department of Agriculture
Department of Defense
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of the Interior
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
National Science Foundation
Office of Management and Budget
Office of Science & Technology Policy
Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Uploaded September 29, 1998; Last revised November 23, 1998
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