By Miriam Quintal and Eliana Perlmutter
SIAM is deeply concerned with sustaining federal support for applied mathematics and computational science. It conducts a wide range of activities to encourage Congress’s promotion of funding and sound policy in these areas, engage the administration and federal agency officials in informing future programs, and elevate the role of the SIAM community within the Washington, D.C.-based scientific community so that advocacy reflects SIAM priorities. SIAM works with Lewis-Burke Associates, a government relations firm representing nonprofit scientific organizations and research universities, to help facilitate and advise on SIAM’s federal advocacy, engagement, and profile-raising.
With support from Lewis-Burke, the SIAM Committee on Science Policy (CSP) conducts advocacy activities and engages with federal agency officials. Every spring, the CSP meets with congressional offices in Washington, D.C., to support funding and robust policy for applied mathematics and computational science. This April, CSP members—who participate in SIAM advocacy on a volunteer basis—conducted 25 meetings with staff on pertinent congressional committees and offices whose members are on committees with jurisdiction over science policy and research funding. At these meetings, CSP members discussed the importance of funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy (DOE), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Department of Defense (DoD). They also underscored the value of mathematics and computational science research, and spoke about related education and workforce issues.
In addition to conducting outreach to Congress, the CSP engages with federal agency officials to inform future programs and enhance the profile of SIAM within the scientific community. Twice a year, it convenes agency officials in Washington, D.C., to participate in discussions on current programs relevant to applied mathematics and computational science, and to hear about potential future directions of these agencies. This spring, CSP members met with Frederica Darema, director of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research; Michael Vogelius, director of the Division of Mathematical Sciences at the NSF; and Barbara Helland, associate director for the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program at the DOE Office of Science. Last fall, the committee’s federal agency engagement included meeting with leadership from the NIH Division of Biomedical Technology, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology, and project managers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
SIAM also works in collaboration with other associations to advance community efforts advocating for federal support of science and engineering through the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), the Energy Sciences Coalition, and the Coalition for National Security Research. Partnering with these groups allows SIAM to demonstrate broad consensus among scientific associations when advocating to policymakers on behalf of SIAM priorities and the research community’s interests. These collaborations elevate SIAM’s role within the Washington, D.C.-based scientific advocacy community. Additionally, involvement in the coalitions ensures that communal advocacy efforts reflect SIAM priorities. Recent actions through these coalitions include signing community letters in support of strong funding for basic research. In May, Michael Shelley (New York University) represented SIAM at an annual exhibition hosted by the CNSF in the House of Representatives, which showcased research supported by the NSF.
SIAM communicates priorities to legislators through meetings as well as submission of formal input. To support fiscal year 2018 appropriations for key research agencies, SIAM submitted written testimony to the relevant House and Senate appropriations subcommittees. The testimony endorsed increased funding for the NSF and the DOE Office of Science, and discussed the value of specific programs at the agencies, including the NSF Division of Mathematical Sciences and the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, the DOE ASCR office and Applied Mathematics program, and associated graduate fellowships and early career researcher activities. Furthermore, Lewis-Burke submitted questions to congressional offices in advance of hearings with agency leadership to prompt the emphasis of SIAM priorities in hearing proceedings.
At the start of the new presidential administration, the CSP drafted white papers containing recommendations focused on the importance of applied mathematics and computational science. These white papers were used in congressional advocacy and shared with the Office of Management and Budget, which plays a central role in the budget process on behalf of the administration. The white papers addressed SIAM priorities at the NSF, DOE, and DoD. SIAM has also responded to destabilizing actions by the administration by releasing a statement in support of the March for Science and participating in coalitions to express opposition to travel bans.
SIAM is always looking to offer its members opportunities to be informed and involved in policy advocacy on behalf of applied mathematics and computational science. If you are interested in receiving updates about science policy and notifications of action alerts, sign up for the science policy electronic mailing list. Additionally, SIAM is launching a new Science Policy Fellowship Program. Each year, the program will offer three to five postdoctoral fellows and early-career researchers training and facilitated opportunities to advocate for federal investments relevant to SIAM priorities. This fellowship will enable participants to continue pursuing their research and teaching while simultaneously gaining experience with the processes that determine science funding and policy decisions. More information about the fellowship—and instructions for applying—are available on the SIAM website. Applications are due September 15th.
Miriam Quintal is SIAM’s Washington liaison at Lewis-Burke Associates LLC. Eliana Perlmutter is a Legislative Research Assistant at Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.