The Society’s advocacy efforts focus on US federal policymaking that impacts the astronomical sciences, including research and education funding, policies impacting the profession, and regulations.
These efforts are coordinated by a small professional staff — a Director of Public Policy and the John N. Bahcall Public Policy Fellow — located in Washington, DC. While the public policy staff lead many of these efforts, the Society places significant emphasis on the advocacy role played by volunteer leaders — the Board of Trustees, the Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy, and other committees — and by the membership at large. The Society’s Planetary Science and Solar Physics divisions also have very active volunteer-led standing subcommittees focused on federal relations and public policy.
Advocacy is the outward-facing portion of public policy where we inform policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch about the status of the astronomical sciences and promote the priorities of our community. We accomplish this by educating Congressional staff, White House staff, and federal agency staff in person and via formal communications during the regular federal policy making process. We sponsor Congressional briefings on hot toipcs in the field and we partner with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and other organizations to host such briefings. We also participate in large coalitions of like-minded organizations (other professional societies, universities, private companies) to advocate for the scientific enterprise overall.
We get the membership involved in advocacy by sending out action alerts and by hosting ~15 members each year during a springtime Congressional Visits Day. The staff can help members organize local visits with your representatives as well. It’s also important to mention that a sizeable fraction of our community plays an important role in the federal process by serving on peer review and advisory committees.