Each year a team of high energy physicists who carry out their research at SLAC and Fermilab travels to Washington D.C. to build relationships with members of Congress and their staff, and to seek support for the DOE Office of Science programs, including particle physics. On March 21-23, 40 participants took part in a record 290 appointments with Congressional representatives, covering well over half the offices of all members of Congress.
These meetings are extremely important, as they give our scientists the opportunity to thank Congress for the support they have given to the physical sciences. Our science is made possible by government (i.e. public) funding and the difficult budgetary decisions that are made in Congress each year are facilitated by clear information such as that given during these face-to-face meetings.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of this trip is that it underlines that science is a human endeavor. No number of reports, proposals, or white papers, will ever substitute for face to face meetings with people who love their work and are able to clearly express its importance. Take a look at this photo of the group on Capitol Hill. The dress code is certainly different but the same energy and enthusiasm that we experience everyday at the labs is there.
I know there is a tremendous amount of work involved in the preparation of these visits; scheduling 290 separate meetings in two days is a logistical triumph. Over the last few years, members of SLUO and UEC, the Fermilab users organization, have built up a very successful collaboration. The goals of the visit are carefully thought out and each member of the group is ready to convey a consistent message during their meetings, regardless of whether SLAC or Fermilab is their home laboratory. A new brochure was prepared for this year's Washington trip to help explain the variety of experiments and proposed programs in particle physics.
The feedback I have had is very encouraging. Support for the physical sciences is strong amongst both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate and Congressional representatives warmly encouraged our users to continue communicating with Congress on progress and successes. They were especially interested in educational initiatives at the laboratories, particularly on the K-12 level, as well as commercial applications for ongoing research.
Forging links with Congress and thanking government members for their support is a very positive endeavor and my thanks go to everyone at SLAC and Fermilab who took part in these visits or helped with the preparations. The more they know us, the more are the opportunities to support our most worthy science.
—Jonathan Dorfan, April 2, 2007