1 October 2020

AAS Congressional Visits Day (CVD) Goes Virtual

Kelsie Krafton

Kelsie Krafton US Department of Energy

Virtual Congressional Visits DayAAS Congressional Visits Day (CVD) had been planned for mid-March this year. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we postponed to September. Unfortunately, the pandemic is still very much ongoing, but rather than cancel CVD, we decided to try a first-ever virtual version. Many other scientific societies have moved to take similar measures since the pandemic began.

Even if there wasn’t a pandemic, phone calls with congressional offices just aren’t the same experience for first time CVDers as in-person visits. Adding the pandemic and election to the mix means science is far down the agenda list, and we had to change the way we interact with staffers. Our CVD volunteers would also be dealing with the start of fall semester since August recess and the election left September as the only good time to try and contact their members of Congress. This timing did negatively impact many CVDers ability to participate.

Normally CVD includes a day and a half of pre-visit training at the AAS Executive Office. After speaking to other societies about their move to virtual, we decided to break up the training into a series of 1-hour webinars spread over two weeks. We are making available most of the recorded webinars with introductory material for congressional visits:

CVD volunteers were encouraged to schedule their own meetings as they would for in-person visits, but scheduling was much easier this time because they were virtual, and the Hill is somewhat less busy now than in early spring when everyone visits to make their appropriations asks. At least with in-person meetings, you have a chance to catch the actual representatives or senators passing through the office between other meetings or at a constituent coffee. The calls went really well, and staffers were happy to talk about impacts to research from the pandemic, which has not been one of the main topics on their COVID-relief agendas.

The AAS is not planning to allow travel for CVD until Summer 2021 at the earliest, so CVD 2021 has been moved to a virtual format as well. Sign-ups for CVD 2021 have not started yet, but registration will open up sometime this fall. The deadline for application to AAS CVD 2021 will be around mid-December 2020. Selected volunteers will be notified in early January 2021.

Thank you to all our 2020 CVD participants!

  • Gillian Beltz-Mohrmann (Vanderbilt University)
  • W. Niel Brandt (Penn State University)
  • Kevin Ortiz Ceballos (University of Puerto Rico)
  • Jaime Crouse (University of Missouri, Kansas City)
  • Melanie Elliott (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
  • Adi Foord (University of Michigan)
  • Samantha Gilbert (University of Washington)
  • Luke Kelley (Northwestern University)
  • Emily Lubar (University of Texas, Austin)
  • Sarah Moran (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Kim Moreland (University of Texas, San Antonio)
  • Hayley Roberts (University of Colorado, Boulder)
  • Benjamin Roulston (Boston University & Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)
  • Grant Tremblay (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian)
  • Patrick Vallely (Ohio State University)

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