ESSIC Research Associate Patrick Meyers was among a group of researchers who shared climate expertise and information with congressional committees and staffers this past May, as part of the American Meteorological Society’s (AMS) Weather, Water, and Climate Day (WWCD).
The event, which was one of many Congressional Visit Days or CVDs held by AMS throughout the year, aims to foster relationships between researchers and policy makers, where information and understandings can be openly communicated between the two respective groups.
“We want congressional staffers to know that the AMS community is a resource full of expertise on weather, climate, water, space and other earth system science,” AMS Senior Policy Fellow Shali Mohleji said. “[CVDs give] us an opportunity to inform the congressional community of our community’s expertise and willingness to share our knowledge to assist with decision-making on relevant issues.”
WWCD was unique in that it was the first AMS-hosted CVD without partnerships from outside organizations. The participants were split into nine three-person groups, with the intent of matching the researchers to their state’s particular representatives.
The Maryland team for example, met with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the Senate and House Agriculture Subcommittees on Conservation, Forestry, and Natural Resources, and staffers of three Maryland representatives. The group also met with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Cal.
Given the event’s theme, researchers discussed topics ranging from climate’s effect on wildfires to Chesapeake Bay water quality concerns. They also presented information about their representatives’ districts.
According to an official event debrief, Mary Frances, a senior policy advisor for Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., requested wind resource maps, imagery, and blog posts on severe weather pertaining to Hoyer’s district, Maryland’s fifth.
“The idea is that later on [the policy makers] won’t necessarily remember our conversation, but, when they do need to know information, they’d be able to come to us,” ESSIC Faculty Research Assistant Patrick Meyers said.
Meyers, along with a former NASA Earth Division director and a NOAA Climate Prediction Center representative, comprised one of the event’s researcher groups.
“We basically each said what we do and how there’s a huge array of information, not just between the three of us, but the entire AMS community,” Meyers said. “So then even if one of us doesn’t know a specific detail, it’s a connected enough field [where] we can find the people who are knowledgeable.”
Like all CVDs, Weather, Water and Climate Day organizers stressed the event be policy-relevant as oopsed to policy-prescriptive. Meaning researchers could share scientific information, but not advise legislators about enacting policies or allocating funds.
To minimize the chances of the event becoming prescriptive, AMS held a mandatory training session the day before.
“We’re all scientists behind our desks most of the time and never really step foot into congressional offices,” Meyers said. “Part of [the training] was just to know … who we were talking to, how we have to adjust our usual message and our usual vocabulary, [and learning] about words we should and shouldn’t say.”
Though researchers didn’t advocate for specific legislation, the scientific information shared with Congress served as a tool for decision-makers to create the most comprehensive and relevant legislation.
“Decisions have the best capability of solving problems when they are based on knowledge and understanding, and it is important to provide that information,” Mohleji said. “As scientists, we are experts in that information, and that is a very important contribution we can make to the decision making process.”