Thursday, December 01, 2011

Starting point for a letter to senators/congressmen in support of basic science funding

I’d like to share with anyone in need the body of a letter that I just wrote to my senators and congressmen regarding support of basic science funding.  Instead of focusing on the negative (“cutting the same discretionary category over and over again,” “US falling behind,” etc.), this really tries to focus on the positive aspects of basic science.  Of course, it’s easy to focus on the negative.  Thankfully, with a topic like this, it is easy to focus on the positive.

I took the liberty of graying out the parts that pertain only to me. I might have missed something, though, so read it carefully before sending it off. This letter would be most effective if you were to:

  • copy it into a word processor,
  • add a salutation and signature area,
  • customize (not delete!) the gray parts,
  • print it off, sign it, and
  • send it in a hand-addressed envelope.

For brownie points, any members of TMS (The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society) can use the TMS Wired to Washington (W2W) website.

(Don’t sue me for putting this here. I’m trying to help you!)

Your congressman will read it, your senators’ staffers might read it, and it’ll only be fuel for a bonfire if you send it to the white house. Write letters starting at a local level, people. That will always be where they’re the most effective.

The Body of the Letter

I am writing in support of legislation, both present and future, which would maintain or increase the number of my tax dollars that are spent on basic scientific research for FY2013 and beyond. Promoting scientific advancement is an area of great strategic importance in our great country in an economic, military, and social sense. Even with the current emphasis on creating jobs immediately, there is a simple truth: investing heavily in scientific pursuits now will pay significant economic dividends down the road. Indeed, many of the advancements being made today in areas such as consumer electronics, smart materials, and communication are built on decades-old ideas.

I am an active member of The Minerals, Metals, and Materials Society, which represents thousands of scientists, engineers, and students working to advance the “state of the art” in materials technology in areas ranging from basic scientific research to product development. My colleagues and superiors in this organization comprise a critical segment of our national scientific enterprise. Materials science thrives on interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation which has been well-supported by US government funding, especially through organizations like the National Science Foundation. In fact, my laboratory just recently received funding from the NSF that allowed us to purchase equipment (approximately half of which was made in Michigan) to investigate a new archaeological ceramic/pottery dating technique. This work is being done with the help of our collaborators in the Archaeology program at Michigan Technological University. This activity also involves undergraduate students and helps introduce them to research at an early stage in their professional careers, like it did for me just a couple of years ago. Students and faculty at Universities in Michigan benefit greatly from federal scientific funding, so it does have a real, tangible impact on your constituents.

The new NSF-fostered discipline of nanotechnology produced an estimated $91B and 180,000 jobs in 2009 on only $1.7B in federal research investment. This fundamental research has catalyzed countless successful ventures, markets, market penetrations, and new businesses. Seldom carried out in the private sector, basic science does not choose industrial winners and losers. Instead, money provided to those investigating basic science issues results in a growing body of scholarly work on which any entrepreneur can draw. In addition, basic science programs often involve private-sector collaborators who foster product development and manufacturing. Just imagine what could be done in the coming fiscal years with an increase in federal expenditures in emerging fields of science, given these previous results.

Our nation needs your commitment to grow the FY2013 and future budgets for fundamental research via organizations like the NSF. Increased availability of federal funds to the USA’s scientific enterprise, especially in the area of basic science, would work to pave the way for a bright future for your constituents and the nation as a whole. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your reply.

This letter is also available on Scribd at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/74397724/Body-of-a-letter-to-my-congressman-and-senators-on-supporting-basic-science

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