I spent Monday night, Tuesday and Wed on Capitol Hill along with Amy Herr (BioE) and colleagues from LBNL working with our sister UC campuses to discuss the importance of sustained federal funding (in our case, with an emphasis on biomedical research and the NIH). I will admit that while I felt this type of service to be of importance to Cal, our state and our nation, I went into it somewhat cynical about the whole process.
To my surprise I found both Democrat and Republican Senators, Representatives and staff very interested and receptive to the issues; they and their staff asked good questions and discussed the current realities in a direct way while trying to understand our stories. I honestly felt what I did to be of value and very well received.
I also learned some statistics that shed light on why we need to do this type of outreach as academics:
- less than 5% of congresspeople have backgrounds in science and engineering
- there is one physicist, one chemist and one microbiologist among the 535 members of the 112th congress
- 18 have PhD’s, 27 have no educational degree beyond a high school diploma
- 6 have engineering degrees and 24 have medical degrees
- 222 have law degrees
I found the experience rewarding and I believe we made a difference.