Summer Congressional Recess: Your Institution’s Opportunity to Be Heard

By Mike Waring
Chair, Advocacy and Alliances Portfolio
While figuring out Washington can often be tricky, one thing is certain: when August rolls around, Congress rolls out of town.
With the House and Senate on summer recess until mid-September, those who want to meet or communicate with lawmakers may have opportunities during the coming weeks.
One of the first rules about advocacy is that until a policymaker understands how your business works, they cannot begin to appreciate how a certain proposed law or regulation will affect it (positively or negatively). Tech transfer professionals can serve an important purpose by working with the federal relations officers at their institutions this recess period to showcase the work that enhances local economic development.
Having a lawmaker visit your campus provides the perfect environment. Away from D.C.’s distractions, they can devote their sole time and attention to your institution’s concerns. Have your federal relations officers see if they are planning visits near you anytime soon, then volunteer to set up a drop-by with a local startup company or researcher ready to create the next great invention.
Always ask what the policymaker knows about tech transfer and how it works. You may well find they know very little. This is your chance to educate them about the cycle of innovation, the impact of research funding on innovation, and the importance of patents. This base of knowledge will provide a new perspective on the work that universities and research institutions do to create the thousands of new companies and discoveries that help America’s economy thrive and our health care improve each year. And that understanding will pay dividends for years to come as understanding deepens, and their tech transfer experiences and education stays top of mind.
While others are vacationing this August and September, see if you and your federal relations officers can use this time to raise the level of understanding policymakers have about the work you do. I guarantee it will be time well spent.