AAAS Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering- Ubadah Sabbagh

Name: Ubadah Sabbagh

Role: Doctoral Student

Program: Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health

Meeting: AAAS Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering

Despite the fact that scientific progress heavily relies on public funding, many STEM trainees don’t have an accurate understanding of the decisions-making progress that results in the funding of science. Since my first year as a graduate student I’d been interested in science policy and advocacy, and had participated in a Hill Day where scientists, from across states and disciplines, go to Washington to meet with their lawmakers and advocate for biomedical research funding. It really is quite a thrill. However, I remember feeling unequipped to communicate with legislators and having an inadequate understanding of how policy is crafted in D.C. Fortunately, I found a workshop from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that seeks to educate scientists about how things work on the Hill, and train them in how to advocate for research funding: the Catalyzing Advocacy in Science and Engineering (CASE) workshop.

At CASE, I was among 90+ undergraduates, graduates, and postdocs from so many different universities across the country. My goal was to learn about the federal budget process, hone my advocacy skills, and meet other scientists interested in this space. The main and most modal message during the workshop seemed to be “All politics is local”.

I learned many valuable things at case but, for the first time, I learned about the appropriations process in Congress. Appropriating committees are the ones who determine precisely who gets what in the budget, and they don’t always do so along party lines. Interestingly, the congressperson that chairs a given committee and wields a substantial amount of power may very well only base their decision on personal values and, of course, local politics of their district.

AAAS CASE is an opportunity I would recommend for anyone interested in policy and advocacy. Science has always been inseparable from politics, and those in science who like to pretend that the enterprise is somehow above the corporeal, as it were, chaos of D.C., detract from the progress of science. I’m grateful to BEST at Virginia Tech for supporting my trip to CASE to become a better advocate for scientific research funding.