Notes on visit

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  • Notes from 2014 visit

John Thomas, Office of Rep. Scott Rigell Attending:  Edward Brash

The meeting lasted about 20 minutes, and I felt like it went very well.  Thomas was very attentive, and seemed very supportive; he pointed out that Rigell was a co-sponsor (with Bobby Scott) of a motion to increase the JLab budget from $96M to $104M, and so was obviously supportive of our goals.  I focused a lot of my comments on undergraduate education and training (since he seemed to be already familiar with the science case).  Since Thomas himself is a graduate of a military university/college, and since Rigell clearly puts military support high on his agenda, I talked quite a bit about the large number of ex-military that work (in accelerator predominantly) at JLab after they leave the service.  He seemed to connect with this, and in fact did not seem to realize that was the case.  At the end, I emphasized that I (and the rest of us) would be very willing to help in any way possible (letter writing, etc.) further down the road when it was most needed … he seemed very receptive to this, and I got the feeling that he would be making contact in the future.

As for general comments, I agree with what the others have said, especially the point about not necessarily being the lead person on the very first meeting (although I realize that there are lot of people to visit and that might not always be possible), and I would add the following points:

1.  As a “first timer”, the thing that struck me immediately was how young the vast majority of staffers are … since it seems that we meeting predominantly with staffers, and not the representatives themselves, I think that it is really important to point this out to people ahead of time.  As faculty, I think that we are typically pretty good and figuring out how to deliver complicated science concepts to people in the 18-24 demographic.  This message is, in my opinion, differently framed than if we are talking to people (even way outside of the field) that are in the >45 year old demographic, which is what I was expecting before going up to the Hill.  While of course we have to adapt to whatever the age and background of the person we are talking to, I do think it would be a helpful message to people to remind them it will probably be a pretty young person that they will meet with.

2.  We received a lot of bio information on the representatives, which was excellent.  Some of the staffers that we met with seemed to be really very much in tune with exactly what their “boss” would connect with.  With others, perhaps not as much, and I got the feeling that knowing a bit more about the staffer, and what their background was would have been helpful.  Also, if we knew what the staffers portfolio was within the office, that would be useful as well.  I understand that this information might be much harder to come by, of course.

3.  Jerry’s “economic impact” one-page is brilliant, and I would HIGHLY recommend it as not only required reading but required documentation to be given to the representatives or their staffers.

4.  I found that everyone that we met with seemed to be receptive to the idea that NP as a field goes through a well-crafted and collaborative long term planning process.  I think that should be a point that does not get missed by anyone in any of the meetings.

Here are summaries of my meetings. I have copied the other members of the Cantor meeting so they can add to/correct my comments.

Molly Newcomb, Office of Rep. Eric Cantor 

Attending: Jerry Gilfoyle, Allena Opper, Ed Brash, Kent Paschke

The meeting went well. We followed the guidance that was sent out over the last couple of weeks and was also discussed at the morning meeting. Ms. Newcomb was attentive, asked questions, and took many notes. We all contributed to the discussion. Ms. Newcomb repeatedly noted that Mr. Cantor 'gets it' and views the science and innovation at JLab as essential to economic growth. She seemed to become even more engaged when we described the impact on undergraduates who do research at JLab. We gave her copies of the materials including a one-pager I wrote on the economic impact of JLab that is focused on Virginia. A copy is attached. I sent her a thank-you email with electronic copies of the one-pager and the original study initiated by JSA on JLab economic impact.

Thinking back on it now, perhaps we should invite Mr. Cantor to visit JLab sometime. This would require coordinating with the other members of Congress in the Newport News area, but would make a stronger impression on Mr. Cantor.

Nick Barbash, Office of Sen Tim Kaine

Attending: Dave Armstrong, Jerry Gilfoyle, Charles Hyde, Ed Brash, Con Beausang, Allena Opper, probably forgot some

Dave Armstrong will likely give a summary too. This meeting also went well. Mr. Barbash remembered the example of MRI as an application of nuclear physics technology that Dave Armstrong used a year ago during the NP day. All of us were engaged in the meeting. Mr. Barbash was very receptive to all of our points and when asked what we could to do help he encouraged us to keep doing what we were doing. We also gave him copies of the materials including the one-pager on the economic impact of JLab that is focused on Virginia. 

Here are a few notes from my congressional visits on Monday. I won't mention the general "pitch" and "ask" which was really the same for each meeting. Left the materials (the folder + inserts + Gerry's economic impact one-pager, as well as the separate APS folder that Ani A. had provided) with each staffer, along with my card.

1) Rep. Bobby Scott's office   Staffer: Evan Chapman   The meeting was Charles Hyde (lead) and myself with Evan. It was a good meeting; Evan already knew a bit about JLab. Charles pointed out that he (Charles) is from ODU and that part of ODU's campus is in Scott's district and that many of ODU faculty/students are in Scott's district also. We thanked Evan for Rep. Scott's strong support for JLab in the past, and I suggested that it would be great if Evan wanted a tour of the lab for Rep, Scott, himself, or any of their staff. We spent a lot of time talking of technology spinoffs of nuclear science, and of educational aspects. Even seemed very open and receptive. Good meeting (but not the longest - 15 minutes total). He didn't have any questions for us.

2) Rep. Rob Wittman's office     Staffer: Brent Robinson     The meeting was myself (lead) and Dipangkar Dutta ("wingman"). I reintroduced myself to Brent, reminded him that we had met a year ago (which he at least claimed to recall), and that I was from W&M (since he is an alum). We pointed out the front page article in today's Wash Post (a copy was on the meeting room table) about food irradiation plant in Mississippi, which was a good starting point for theconversation. Asked Brent to thank Rep. Wittman for his support of JLab in the past, and mentioned the strong connections between JLab and W&M. Pointed to Gerry Gilfoyles' nice synposis of the economic impact of JLab, which he thought was great. Suggested a tour of the lab for Wittman, Brent or other staffers (Brent remembered an earlier visit a number of years ago, but I explained with the upgrade, now or near future would be a good time to visit). Lots of discussion of the various career paths of folks with nuclear physics PhDs, and general technology transfer. Very good meeting, almost 25 minutes.

3) Sen Tim Kaines's office     Staffer: Nick Barbash

The meeting was myself (nominal lead, but everyone had a chance to speak), Allena Opper, Gerry Gilfoyle, Charles Hyde, Mark Pitt, Con Beausang, Ed Brash).  reintroduced myself to Nick, who did seem to remember me from last year.  Similar discussion, with good input from all the visitors. He remembered one "sound bite" I had fed him last year (the idea that only basic, fundamental science could have led to NMR and hence to Magnetic Resonance Imaging - he even said "I think maybe one of you told me that last time around", so some of what we say sticks!). Nick was very much on top of things - he knew about the upgrade (even used the term "12 GeV upgrade" on his own!), was well aware of the issue of the challenge with the FY15 budget for running the machine anywhere near the 30 week goal. He asked a good question (which I felt that I needed to dance around a bit): "Were we asking that additional operating funds for JLab should come out of funds for one of the other facilities". I said no, that nuclear physics as a research community has decided that these three machines are their priorities. We did not get into discussion of the specific problematic language in the FY15 bill (with a RHIC user there, I didn't want to get into that), but instead tried to show a unified front. However, as Kent, you and I discussed, I wanted to follow up with an email to Nick (and to the other staffers I met) following up on hat JLab-specific point - so, it would be great if you could forward me the specific language and any other details useful for me to address that topic in the email. Allena asked a good question: how can we help him (Nick) in helping us? He replied - by doing exactly what you are doing, with bringing these arguments and talking points to him. I'll remember to ask Allena's question in the future at simiarl meetings. Also a good meeting, 25 minutes or so in length. Maybe not a surprise, but I got the sense Kaine is indeed a big supported of the lab.

My visits went very well. Both staffers of representative Butterfield and senator Hagen showed great interest and support of NP and mentioned their boss' strong support and science and education. I did follow up with both of them upon my return and Senator Hagan's staff responded to my follow-up. I invited them to visit our lab at Duke. One thing from JLab side which can be better is the organization of the user side. Compared with RHIC user groups, we were not as well organized. This is not about the lab, more about the user group of JLab.

I don’t think I gave you a feedback email. To be sure, I don’t really know what to to say, but here are some thoughts.

The meetings all went “well”. Every staffer we met with seemed to have a general interest in what we were saying. Some were more prepared than others. For example, Congresswoman Schwartz’s staffer was familiar with the HEP visit that came earlier, and was curious about the physics and overlap. Congressman Brady’s staffer was very personable, but didn’t really know much of what we were talking about - he’s a Temple alum, so we spent a lot of time talking about Temple. The staffer from Senator Toomey’s office was replaced at the last minute, some reason I don’t recall, but they guy we got seemed very personable and serious about STEM related issues and the relevance for the work force.

I think the best meeting we had was with Senator Casey’s office. Two staffers were there, including one guy who was a congressional fellow - I can get you his name if you want - who actually had a background in nuclear science, and we even had some discussions about real physics. Given Casey’s history as a teacher, I think that meeting also stressed STEM education issues.

Most meetings had representatives from JLab (i.e. me), RHIC, and FRIB communities. That was useful for us to show the “united front” of nuclear physics, and to emphasize that the three labs are in it together, so to speak. It did make it a little tricky for me to emphasize that the budget for JLab was below expectations, but I used the “it doesn’t make sense not to invest relatively little to realized the potential of much larger investments made” argument and made the JLab operating budget an example. I have to say, though, that I wasn’t able to get any rise out of any of the staffers with that.

Still, all meetings were fun. We all talked together and enjoyed ourselves, and told as many stories as we could get in. I followed up every visit the next day with an email to the staffers, so hopefully they will remember me. I also used that email to encourage them to come visit Temple and to keep in touch, especially as we look towards dedicating our new Science building some time next fall.

I met with the offices for Jim McGovern (meeting with Caitlin Hodgkins), Barbara Clark (with Geoff Browning), Ed Markey (with Daniel Pomeroy), and Elizabeth Warren (with Julie Babayan).  Elizabeth Warren's office wasn't on the original schedule, but they were able to give me 5 minutes in their lobby when I stopped by.  All of these were attended by at least Krishna Rajagopal from MIT.

I think all of the meetings went well and all the offices were supportive of our request.  In particular Sen. Markey's office seemed particularly savvy on our issues (especially since they had a PhD physicist and former UMass student meet with us) and interested in doing more than just meeting the budget request.  I didn't have any items that needed to be followed up on.

My only comment for future meetings is that Jefferson Lab needs to be better represented and that we need better coverage in states where we have active users.  I know we have groups that are in Ohio and Idaho which had no representatives while we're of course over represented in places like Virginia.

Personally, I had a fantastic experience and I wanted to thank you for helping organize this.  I understand that it's an enormous effort to get people to agree to attend something like this and is a challenge to get to run smoothly, but I think everything went very well overall.  Please let me know if I can offer you anything else.

Thanks for organizing the event. Considering that this was the first such meeting for me, I think it went quite well.

1. Congressman Greg Harper (MS -3) The senior policy advisor in Congressman Harper's office was receptive to the need for supporting NP. He did not have any specific questions. 

2. Senator Thad Cochran (MS senior senator) Senator Cochran's legislative aide and assistant listened to us very politely but did not seem very receptive to our message, did not have any questions and did not interact very much.

3. Senator Roger Wicker (MS junior senator) Senator Wicker's legislative fellow on the other hand was quite the opposite, he asked many questions, such as what is the need for 3 different labs doing NP etc which showed he was listening very carefully and he was  definitely very receptive to our message about supporting basic science and NP.

Also, after this experience I think I will be happy to drop by the congressman or senator's offices in the district, if there is ever a need.