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Travel Report: Congressional Visits Day 2006

By Scott McCain, President of Duke University SPIE Student Chapter

On March 28 and 29, 2006, I participated in the 2006 Science, Engineering, and Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) as a representative of the SPIE and OSA. This is an annual event that is organized by the Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group (SETWG). SPIE and the OSA brought together a diverse group of ~15 people involved in optics research and industry.

The entire SPIE/OSA delegation for Congressional Visits Day 2006.

Meeting at the OSA Headquarters on March 28, we were all able to meet the other members of the group, and then given presentations on how the CVD event works and advice for how to talk with the Congressional staffers that we would meet the next day. Due to the incredible number of issues that Congress deals with and the number of ways the federal government affects the optics research and industrial communities, we were given specific issues to focus on in our meetings. The President's budget outlined at the State of the Union entailed more funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), and we were told to continue this momentum by asking our Congressman to support such proposals. They identified various bills in the House and Senate that directly impacted research and development funding, along with math and science education. After our meetings at the OSA headquarters, we joined up with fellow Washington visitors from other disciplines--- the IEEE, American Chemical Society, etc. at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for some additional presentations on federal government research funding.

Senator Burr and ScotMcCain on the Capitol Building steps.The second day of the visit involved the OSA/SPIE group breaking out into different teams based on geographic location. Each group then visited the offices of the Senators and Representatives from their home states along with a representative from SPIE or the OSA. This gave us all a chance to have meetings with the members of the Congressman's staff that handled scientific policy issues. While the day was quite hectic with all the scheduled meetings and security checkpoints in all the buildings, it was a great way to inform the staffers of the impact of federal government funding on the local level. Most of the staffers thought of optics as opticians and eyeglasses, so it was a great opportunity to inform them of the wide array of applications and research areas involved in optics and photonics. The entire experience made for a very busy and satisfying two days, and Ive kept in touch with some of the Congressional staffers and may even have a Senator come visit our photonics institute here at Duke.

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