26 April 2010

U.S. Astronomers Make Case for Science During Annual Congressional Visits Day

AAS Press Release

April 26, 2010

Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116

Dr. Anita Krishnamurthi
AAS John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow
+1 202-328-2010 x113

Sixteen members of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) are traveling to Washington, DC, April 28-29 to meet with U.S. policy makers and express thanks and appreciation to Congress for recent appropriations in support of research and development (R&D) in science, engineering, and technology.

The delegation is part of a group of more than 250 scientists, engineers, and business leaders making visits on Capitol Hill as part of the 15th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD), sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group. Uniquely multi-sector and multi-disciplinary, CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies, and educational institutions whose members believe that science and technology comprise the cornerstone of our nation’s future.

“This is the largest group of astronomers we’ve ever had participating in CVD,” notes Dr. Anita Krishnamurthi, the AAS’s John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow. “The high turnout reflects the American astronomical community’s strong appreciation of the federal government’s support for what we do.”

While visiting congressional offices, CVD participants will discuss the importance of the nation’s broad portfolio of investments in science, engineering, and technology to promoting U.S. prosperity and innovation. Most importantly, they provide a constituent perspective on the local and national impact of these programs and their significance to virtually all regions of the country.

“It is more important than ever for scientists to reach out to policy makers,” says Dr. Kevin B. Marvel, the AAS’s Executive Officer. “With the rollout of the Decadal Survey, we will need our whole community to communicate our prioritized goals to lawmakers. Congressional Visits Day, which we participate in every year, helps us train our members to be effective advocates for science.” The Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, carried out under the auspices of the National Academies, is expected to itemize the most important scientific and technical activities of the decade 2010-2020 later this year.

More than 50% of all industrial innovation and growth in the United States since World War II can be attributed to advances pioneered through scientific research, with publicly funded R&D the vital foundation for today’s scientific and technological progress. Achievements from federally funded science, engineering, and technology include global environmental monitoring, lasers, liquid crystal displays, the Internet, and many other scientific and technical advances. Even astronomical research, sometimes considered of no practical value, has provided numerous tangible benefits, including major contributions to science education; applications of its technology in medicine, industry, defense, environmental monitoring, and consumer products; and opportunities for international cooperation. (See “Benefits to the Nation from Astronomy” in the last Decadal Survey report.)

The federal government supports a unique research and education enterprise that fuels the American economy. This enterprise provides the underpinning of high-technology industries and expands the frontiers of knowledge in every field of science. Much of this research is carried out at academic institutions across the country, ensuring knowledge transfer to future generations of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicians, and teachers. Additionally, technology transfer from academic research adds billions of dollars to the economy each year and supports tens of thousands of jobs.

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AAS members participating in CVD 2010:

  • Reba Bandyopadhyay, Assistant Scientist, Dept. of Astronomy, University of Florida
  • Joseph Bernstein, Computational Postdoctoral Fellow, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Michelle Creech-Eakman, Associate Professor, New Mexico Tech
  • Steve Croft, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
  • Kyle Dawson, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Utah
  • Meredith Drosback, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Virginia
  • Debra Elmegreen, Maria Mitchell Professor of Astronomy, Vassar College
  • Ori Fox, Graduate Student, University of Virginia
  • John Gizis, Associate Professor, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, University of Delaware
  • John Huchra, Robert O. & Holly Thomis Doyle Professor of Cosmology, Harvard University
  • Anita Krishnamurthi, John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow, American Astronomical Society
  • John O’Meara, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Chemistry and Physics, Saint Michael’s College
  • Peter Plavchan, Staff Scientist, NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, Caltech
  • Jennifer Sobeck, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Chicago
  • Diane Turnshek, Teaching Faculty, St. Vincent College, University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Sinclair Community College, The Community College of Allegheny County
  • Craig Wheeler, Professor, Dept. of Astronomy, University of Texas, Austin

Debra Elmegreen, John Huchra, and Craig Wheeler are President-Elect, President, and Past-President, respectively, of the American Astronomical Society.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,000 also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe.

The Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group is an information network comprising professional, scientific, and engineering societies, institutions of higher learning, and trade associations. The sponsors represent more than a million researchers and professionals in science and engineering. The Work Group is concerned about the future vitality of the U.S. science, mathematics, and engineering enterprise.