DOL Rule May Impact Postdoc Pay and More in Science and Tech Weekly Summary 28

Check out our August Recess Guide so you can petition your local congressperson on science and technology and other policy issues! It’s your 1st amendment right to hold your congressperson accountable. Don’t let them relax while they’re on recess!

Also, the Week 28 in Science and Technology Policy Newsletter from RISE Stronger  is now out! (Sign up for the Weekly S&T Summary here.)

I contributed the piece below on a Department of Labor rule than can have a huge impact on Postdoc pay.

Fate of Department of Labor rule may impact postdoc pay

On May 23, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new rule allowing overtime pay for certain professionals making less than $47,476, including most postdoctoral researchers. The rule would effectively incentivize a pay increase for postdocs making less than $47,476. Indeed, after the announcement, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) adopted a new pay scale for one of its most widely awarded postdoctoral fellowships. However, the rule, which was supposed to take effect December 1, 2016, was blocked by a federal judge in Texas on November 22, 2016. The rule, along with the potential postdoc pay raise, has been frozen, awaiting further determination by the court ever since.

On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, the DOL published a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register seeking responses to a series of detailed questions concerning this rule, likely in anticipation of pending legal action (the legal challenge to the rule is currently being reviewed by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals). According to the DOL, “the RFI is an opportunity for the public to provide information that will aid the department in formulating a proposal to revise these regulations.” The future of the much-anticipated increase in postdoc pay may depend on the legal fate of this rule. Public comments must be submitted on or before September 25, 2017, and additional instructions can be found at Regulations.gov referencing the Regulatory Information Number 1235-AA20. Read more about the rule and the RFI in RISE Stronger’s policy and action brief on this topic.

 

 

 

Weekly Science Policy Summaries from RISE Stronger (Week 27)

I recently became involved with the science advocacy group RISE Stronger. The group’s Mission is to “To build a dynamic, strategic movement of politically engaged communities that demand a responsible and accountable government which serves the interests of the people.”

One component of organization is the Science and Technology Working Group, which acts as a watchdog group for science in government. Every week we compile and release a newsletter on developments in Science Policy and reporting on any actions the Trump Administration or Congress have taken in the previous week that may impact the use of science in policy making or government actions on science issues. I am happy to have contributed a story on the opioid epidemic to last week’s summary.

Check out last week’s Science and Technology Policy Summary.

Or Sign Up to the Weekly Science Summaries using the link below (I’ll also post the links here as well).

https://tinyletter.com/rise-science-tech/

Stay informed! Stay active! Enjoy!

Senate Rebukes Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Medical Marijuana

(from wikipedia.org)

Since taking over at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been attempting to reignite the “War on Drugs” (for example, he issued a memo to federal prosecutors calling for the them to seek the harshest possible sentence when dealing with low-level drug offenders, the exact opposite of Obama-era guidance).

Sessions now has his sites on state-run medical marijuana programs (marijuana is still listed as a Schedule 1 illegal drug according to the DEA, the most severe categorization for drugs). In May, Sessions tried to pressure Congress to not stop him from authorizing the DOJ to prosecute medical marijuana clinics and patients.

Sessions attack on medical marijuana would be extremely harmful to not only the patients that benefit from medical marijuana but may even increase opioid overdose deaths in those states (there’s actually a growing body of scientific evidence that opioid overdose deaths are reduced in states with legalization of marijuana; I plan to write a more detailed post on this in the near future).

Thankfully the Senate has taken measures to prevent Sessions from being able to take action against medical marijuana. A bipartisan committee approved an amendment to the 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. The amendment does not allow DOJ to use funds to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.” In essence, even if Sessions instructed Federal law enforcement agents to target medical marijuana clinics and patients, they would be unable to do so because it would be illegal to use any federal dollars to carry out this action.

Time will tell what other ways Sessions will try revive antiquated drug policy (if he survives his tenure as AG that is). A study in the Lancet last year examined the public health impact of  drug policy throughout the world (future post on this too) and concluded, among other things, that “policing practices undertaken in the name of the public good have demonstrably worsened public health outcomes.” Clearly, Sessions didn’t read this report…

How to Fight the Trump Agenda, Part 1

resist-trump1Happy President’s Day!

At least it should be…

Sadly, the history of the Office has already been cheapened by the antics of one Donald J. Trump (and the white supremacists that whisper in his ear). As expected, the Trump White House is already embroiled in turmoil and scandal. But don’t think that he’ll being getting impeached anytime soon. Our Democracy is a fragile thing and on today, I hope we all reflect on the need to be as vigilant and as engaged as ever if the authoritarian Trump agenda is to be thwarted.

Though a common line of thinking I get from people, there’s nothing I can I do so why should I care?

True, there’s nothing you can do to prevent Trump from signing an Executive Order but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. It’s important to remember we’re still in a country that operates under the rule of law, whether Trump likes it or not (the judicial actions against Trump’s Muslim Ban should be proof of this).  The President is powerful but limited in his powers. Congress still makes the laws.

And that’s where “We the People” come in. We can engage with government both at the local and Federal level. Remember, the First Amendment to the Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

You’re probably familiar with most parts of this but people always forget about that last bit. You have a RIGHT to hold your Member(s) of Congress (MoC) accountable! People say they have no voice…actually you do! But this voice is most effective when many, many other voices are joined together. Ultimately a MoC only has their job because of PEOPLE’S VOTES. If they get enough complaints from people and fear they might lose re-election, I guarantee they will listen!

This is exactly what happened with the Tea Party. A group of angry and extremely vocal conservatives hammered their representatives often and in a coordinated way in order to affect changes in their MoC’s positions and votes. We as rational-minded folks opposed to Trump’s Authoritarian agenda of hate can accomplish something if we borrow from the Tea Party playbook. But unlike the Tea Party, we don’t have to resort to intimidation, physical threats, and lies. The Facts are on our side so let’s use them!

I know it seems like your voice and your vote doesn’t matter but trust me, YOU ARE WRONG! Congress only exists because of VOTES and VOTES = PEOPLE! A representative or senator will change their vote if there are ENOUGH PEOPLE TO CONVINCE THEM TO!

I admit, I’m new to this type of action but thankfully there are so many committed and intelligent activists out there. It’s good to remember that we live in a country with such dedication and political engagement (at least some of us). Nothing compiled here I created myself but thanks to the hard work of many others, I am happy to share their accomplishments (I’ll also be re-posting updates and expansions to this in the future).

Some of the Actions you as an individual can take:

  1. Call your Congressperson or Senator
  2. Voice your opinion at a Town Hall
  3. Join a March or Protest
  4. Huddle with other like-minded folks and figure out how to coordinate actions/protests together.
  5. Write an op-ed, letter to your MoC, or take to Social Media.

I’ll discuss some of these other options in future blog posts for now I’ll focus on one of the easier and more effective ones: Call you MoC! As I stated above, the Constitution guarantees your right to call and visit your Congressperson and Senator!

Here’s a fact sheet with tips/tricks on:

How to Effectively Call Congress

A colleague, Reba Bandyopadhyay, compiled this amazing list of tips.

Just to reiterate some of the main points from Reba’s tip sheet:

  • Know if your issue is handled at the Local, State, or Federal level.

You’ll get more bang-for-your-buck if the person you’re calling actually deals with your issue. Your state representative is likely to have more of an impact on issues specific to your state than your senator. (the exception to this is simply to register an ideological position on an issue).

  • Important: only call a MoC from your district or state!

If your MoC doesn’t have to worry about your vote, then he/she won’t care about your opinion.

  • You’ll probably be speaking to a staffer and not the actual representative.

The call will be very brief, probably no more than a minute. It’s OK to use a script but not necessary. Congressional offices are busy so be polite and be concise!

  • First, state your name, what you do, and where you live.
  • Have a specific “ask”. For example, please vote yes/no on bill X or please vote no on the confirmation of person Y.
  • You don’t need to be an expert on the piece of legislation that you are calling about.

Don’t worry about being quizzed about your position. The point of the call is for     them to list to you!

  • Don’t be intimidated if your MoC has a different position than you.

In fact, that’s the point: make your voice heard!

  • Calls don’t have to be negative. If your MoC, is doing a great job and voting the right way, let them know it!

A MoC can use support from their constituents to help make the case to their colleagues as well!

Of course, as I stated above, a single call probably won’t do anything but 1,000’s might. Below are some other resources you can use to find activist groups in your area, get more info on actions you can take, and even get suggestions for specific actions to take and when to take them.

The Indivisible Guide

This thing is pretty incredible. This guide was compiled by former Congressional staffers and provides realistic strategies for opposing the Trump agenda. Kudos to these folks for compiling this awesome and concise document! I highly recommend reading, internalizing, and distributing! Those also send out “Calls to Action” to keep people working together and on task.

The Women’s March: 10 Actions/100 Days

Regardless of whether you marched or not, the Women’s March official website makes it easy to get involved with 10 actions in 100 days. Join local groups and get involved with other like-minded activists!

The 65

This site is similar to Indivisible and The Women’s March in that is provides a calendar with weekly actions you can take. Great way to have important issues highlighted and good way to stay motivated. But also do your own research and support the issues that matter most to you!

This comic offers some tips for those with social anxiety or just nervous about cold calling their MoC.

Ok, get to it! Stay tuned for other tips sheets for resisting the Orange Man.