Sarah Rowlinson, a third-year PhD student in bioengineering, was part of a group of students from the National Science Policy Group (NSPG) that recently visited Capitol Hill to advocate for science research funding and other issues at the intersection of science and public policy.

“Our message was that funding levels for research in all scientific disciplines should be increased,” explained Rowlinson. “We know that investments in science increase the prosperity and quality of life, here in the U.S. and around the globe. Reducing science budgets affects everyone, not just scientists.”

While absolute funding levels have increased slightly in the past decade, they have not kept up with inflation, and investment as a percentage of GDP has decreased.

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Grad student Sarah Rowlinson, center, pictured in the office of Rep. Jeff Duncan.

Rowlinson led the NSPG’s southeast delegation, which included students from Clemson, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Morehouse College. The group met with staff members from the offices of Georgia senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, South Carolina senators Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, North Carolina senators Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, Florida senator Marco Rubio, South Carolina representative Jeff Duncan, North Carolina representative David Price, and Georgia representative John Lewis.

NSPG’s visit was part of STEM on the Hill Day, an annual event organized by the Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group, an informal network of professional and scientific societies, higher education associations, institutions of higher learning, trade associations, and individual companies.

“What made NSPG unique,” said Rowlinson, “was our perspective as young researchers and early-career scientists, and we could really explain in concrete terms how the current scientific funding landscape is affecting our careers and the future of STEM innovation in the U.S.”

Rowlinson’s involvement in the group began last year when she represented the Clemson University Graduate School at a three-day American Association for the Advancement of Science Policy workshop. “I was able to meet with South Carolina legislators and their legislative assistants and advocate for federal support of science,” she said. “During that event I was able to network with science policy organizations such as the National Science Policy Group. Since last year, I have joined NSPG’s executive leadership and have helped the organization expand.”

Rowlinson is in the process of forming a science policy group on campus later this year and encourages interested students to contact her at sarcorow@gmail.com to help launch the group or receive notification when it is launched.

Not surprisingly, Rowlinson found that the Clemson Family extends to our nation’s capital: “When we went to the office of Rep. Jeff Duncan, who is a Clemson alumnus, I got to sit in his chair because I was the Clemson student in the group!”