What is a Site Visit?
A Site Visit to your lab or campus is a unique and exciting opportunity to directly show your member the work you do.
Working with APA, you can set up a laboratory visit. However, these are much harder to coordinate and schedule than a normal district visit and will take some time.
Once your visit is scheduled, you should take care to ensure it goes smoothly. These visits are much different than a sit down with your member or their staff. An effective visit takes planning. Follow our guide and you should be prepared. Do not hesitate to contact and work with us throughout the process.
So your visit is scheduled. What are the first steps?
Contact your University Administrators.
Your university likely has a public relations or government affairs office, let them know about your visit.
By alerting these offices before the visit, you allow your university to help with any media planning, special visits (a member level visit will bring out high ranking university officials), and will educate you on any university activity you might not be aware of.
Structure your visit.
Good planning will help keep your visit interesting. Member’s schedules can be hectic and packed. Make sure you plan accordingly. What are the most important aspects of your lab?
Show them your research.
Do you have tests to show? Equipment? Animals? Technology is flashy but don’t worry if your lab doesn’t have any equipment, there are other ways to show off.
But don’t over-script. Try and keep the natural flow of the laboratory. Are there students working on projects? Good! Let them work, showing the day in day out workings of your lab is important.
Be sure to highlight any work being supported by federal research funds. While you may have other research projects with a different funding source, focusing on them will dilute your message.
Create an Information Packet.
Your information packet can be a goldmine, as long as it gives congressional offices information that’s meaningful and easy to understand. Information packets should include a One-Pager, an American Psychological Association (APA) Briefing Sheet and copies of any university publications or local news articles that describe your research or request. Plan to make two packets for each scheduled visit, each packet labeled with your name (use your full title), your issue, your address in the representative’s district, and your contact information.
You will want to include:
- Your One Pager describing you and your research
- Information relevant to the research being done at your lab
- Funding issues and numbers
- How your Member can help you and support psychology
Remember to keep these short and concise. You are writing for a lay audience.
Write a successful One-Pager.
Educating your member of Congress about the research you do -- especially if that research is funded with taxpayer dollars—should be a goal of every psychological scientist. A One-Pager is a very useful and user-friendly tool in your kit and is valuable for in-person visits, media outreach, community organizations, lay audiences and more.
Written in lay language, your One-Pager quickly helps your member of Congress grasp your issue, frees staffers from having to take notes about your work, ensures the accuracy of information they have, and makes it easy for them to follow up with you.
Every One-Pager should contain:
- Your contact information – name, affiliation, address, phone number, email and website.
- A summary of your current research, including why that research is important, all in a context that a layperson can readily understand.
- A mention of which agencies/institutes support or have supported your work (federal and non-federal).
Your One-Pager should NOT contain:
Jargon—if no explanation follows.
Lengthy methodological explanations.
Assumptions of familiarity with your field of study.
APA Briefing Sheets.
You have, at most, 15 to 20 minutes to make your case. The APA Briefing Sheet summarizes official APA positions and requests on issues. Academic papers are usually not helpful; something short and written for a lay audience is best.
APA State Fact Sheets
Click on your state to learn more about NIH and NSF funding.
Before Your Visit Checklist
- Contact the Science GRO at 202-336-6182 or firstname.lastname@example.org for the latest information about your issue and the best time to visit.
- Get to know your representative: What is his/her schedule? What are his/her pet issues? Where is his/her office?
- Schedule an appointment.
- Prepare information packets.
- Write a One-Pager.
- Include an APA Briefing Sheet.
The Day of your Visit
A site visit is different than a regular office visit. The member is your guest, and you're there to show of your lab and your work.
Here are the things you need to remember to make your message resonate.
What to expect.
Be flexible. Members of Congress have busy schedules, be prepared to wait. While you spent time planning you tour, don't be afraid to let the Member guide you. If they show interest in something, explain it.
Be respectful to everyone. Even when you meet with a Member, staff will be present. Members of Congress depend heavily on their staff – and you will, too.
Even if the Member or staff check their phones during your visit, leave your phone turned off and out of sight.
Keep it simple.
Explain your issues in terms of programs that the member of Congress has voted on or that lie within the federal sphere, e.g. federal funds for research, training, immigration of skilled workers including scientists, regulations of nonhuman animals or human participants.
Avoid scientific jargon.
Members and their staff might not have any scientific experience. If you're showing your experiments try to explain them as simply as possible. Depending on your work, it can be fun to have the member try out your experiment.
Explain why your work is important.
Be specific. Tie your research to federal spending. Do you have the bill number, name of the amendment’s sponsor? What consequences can be expected if your request isn’t granted?
Confirm which staff person you may speak to when you follow up with the office. Be sure to get a business card from her or him.
Never expect a quid pro quo. Mention if you have volunteered in the member’s campaign or donated. Don’t say “If you don’t do this, I won’t vote for you.” That’s understood, but it’s clumsy to blurt it out.
Listen as carefully as you speak. Ask questions if the member or staff say something you don’t understand. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver, and if they ask a question to which you don’t know the answer, admit it and promise to follow up with the information.
Day of your Visit Checklist
- Bring information packets containing One-Pagers, Briefing Sheets and relevant articles.
- Turn off phones.
- Turn on politeness.
- Stick to your message.
- Involve the appropriate people
- Take photos
After your Visit.
By hosting a site visit, you have made a valuable connection with your member’s office, now you need to build it.
Send the Member and staff a thank-you. Maybe include more information on your work that was left out the visit. If you took photos, include them in your note. But remember to always keep it short.
Be sure to set up a district meeting with the office in the future. By fostering this relationship, your voice is more likely to be heard on critical issues related to psychology.
Following up with your representative.
If you met with a Member, send an email addressed to him or her, but copy any staff people you met (legislative assistant, scheduler) to be sure the note reaches the Member of Congress.
If you met with a staff person, send a thank-you email to him or her expressing gratitude for their time to meet with you – and using it as the perfect opportunity to reiterate points from the meeting, and include additional information you may have promised.
And if your representative votes on an issue the way you asked, thank them again, separately!
Note: Your email should include your address in the district, since Members of Congress only answer correspondence from their constituents. Otherwise, the volume would be overwhelming.
Following up with your team at APA.
Just click and send us this Post-Visit Evaluation Form so that we can learn more about your visit, understand how the person you spoke with responded to your message, and inform future advocacy.
After your Visit Checklist
- Thank you note to the Member and staff.
- Post-Visit Evaluation to APA.
- Use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about your site visit.
- Stay connected with APA advocacy efforts by signing up for Action Alerts, news sources like APA Science Policy News, Psychological Science Agenda, as well as following us on Twitter.