How to Engage in Effective Science Advocacy, with Wendy Naus – Ep #35

What does it take to engage in thoughtful and effective science advocacy? What good will all of your hard work accomplish if you can’t convey it in a way that engages policymakers? Here to help science professionals like you engage in effective science advocacy is the Consortium of Social Science Associations’ (COSSA) Wendy Naus.

Wendy became the fourth Executive Director of COSSA in 2014 following a decade of lobbying for the federal research and policy interests of scientific societies and U.S. universities. Over her career, she has worked to shape legislation, programs, and regulations important to the research community and has advocated for increased research funding across federal agencies.

In her role at COSSA, Wendy serves as the lead advocate for federal funding and policy that positively impact social and behavioral science research across the federal government, representing the breadth of the social science research enterprise. She is also responsible for the day to day operations of COSSA and member engagement.

A native of Buffalo, New York, Wendy holds a B.A. in political science and urban studies from Canisius College, graduating magna cum laude from the All-College Honors Program.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:00] Mark introduces his guest, Wendy Naus.
  • [2:30] What does a lobbyist do? How has it changed with the end of “earmarks?”
  • [4:30] How can postdocs and researchers get engaged in science advocacy?
  • [8:00] What are earmarks and how do they work?
  • [13:40] Wendy talks about what successful advocacy looks like.
  • [16:15] Conveying your passion can make all the difference.
  • [18:25] What led Wendy to her work as a lobbyist?
  • [20:15] Turning the table and asking policymakers what they need.
  • [23:00] The difference between advocacy and lobbying.

Connect with Wendy Naus

What successful science advocacy looks like

In a perfect world, we’d see both the public and private sectors invest generously in research and development projects – sadly, that is not our reality. Every dollar the federal government provides to the scientific community represents someone championing and fighting for that funding. How does the “sausage” get made? What does it take to successfully advocate for science?

According to Wendy Naus – it all comes down to playing the long game. Yes, everyone loves the quick satisfaction of small victories, but Wendy cautions that the small wins aren’t as valuable as the long-term gains, and those take time. In a nutshell, if you want to see science advocacy succeed, you’ve got to create and nurture relationships with policymakers.

How to make your message connect with policymakers

Have you ever heard someone share critical information in the least effective way possible? Airplane flight attendants come to mind – you need that important information, but their method of delivery is lacking. Don’t let that happen to you! If you want to get your valuable research across and engage in effective science advocacy – you’ve got to bring energy and passion. Of course, energy and passion vary from person to person, but you know engaging content when you see it.

Wendy also explains that an effective way to connect with policymakers is to engage them with the science adjacent concerns that they care about. Remember – policymakers are humans – just like you. If you were in a position of power, wouldn’t it stand out if you heard request after request all day and then had someone come in and offer to help with your passion project? Don’t be afraid to reach out and build solidarity around a common goal.

Wendy has a lot of valuable insights to share that come from her experience as a lobbyist, make sure to catch her full conversation with Mark on this episode of When Science Speaks.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks


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