Contacting Your Congressional Representative

Update: After a twitter conversation with Benjamin Corb (@bwcorb) from ASBMB, who unlike myself is an expert on science advocacy, the “Don’t” points below are not correct. (Thanks a bunch). He also noted, and I agree, WE NEED MORE SCIENTISTS CONTACTING CONGRESS!! This graph graciously provided by Benjamin Corb/ASBMB could probably take the place of this entire post (click to expand):

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Original Post:

There was an interesting bit on NPR/Houston Public Media this morning regarding contacting your congress person. I can’t find the transcript online, so this is somewhat off the top of my head. Basically, a representative may get 1000’s of emails and 100’s of phone calls a week. That is a lot more than I expected. Most of those emails are discarded (edit: discarded is not correct, they are counted), especially the form letters. This is important since many of the science advocacy groups provide us with web-based form letters to forward to our reps. These simply do not work (edit: are possibly less effective). Additionally, most phone calls fall on deaf ears (edit: again, are possibly less effective). What I found interesting is what does work. First and foremost, a personal and compelling letter send via snail mail is the most likely way for your message to actually make it to your representative’s desk. Second, and I found this even more interesting, is that social media attention directed at the representative is also likely to be noticed by the congressperson’s staff. Finally, and this seems to be a no-brainer, going directly to your representative’s office (either local office or DC) is likely to get the most attention. If you time your visit to the local office while congress is out of session you may actually be able to meet with the representative directly.  So in summary,

Do:

  1. Write an original letter and send it via snail mail to the congressperson’s office.
  2. Visit either the local or DC office of the representative.

Don’t (edit: less effective means of communication):

  1. Sent a form letter, even a modified one.
  2. Phone the congressperson’s office.

Twitter exchange with @bwcorb:

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