Nicole Polinski, a graduate student in Caryl Sortwell's lab, has been selected as one of 10 fellows in the 2015 Society for Neuroscience’s (SfN) Early Career Policy Fellows Program (ECPF). In this program, early career neuroscientists learn how to become effective advocates for science and how to encourage others to do the same.

Two years ago, across-the-board spending cuts sliced $1.5 billion from the National Institutes of Health budget and $356 million from the National Science Foundation. While there has been a reprieve from those cuts, “sequestration” could make a return later in 2015, and, even if it stays dormant, science budgets remain very anemic. Although many neuroscientists may not be particularly comfortable in the advocacy role, the fellowship aims to help younger scientists learn how to advocate and communicate the importance of federal funding for scientific research.

As part of the fellowship, Nicole joined 51 other SfN members at its ninth annual Capitol Hill Day on Thursday, March 26, 2015. For almost a decade, neuroscientists have visited members of Congress each year during SfN’s Hill Day to express their support for increased federal science funding. During the day, Nicole and her group met with eight legislative offices representing Michigan and Iowa to discuss the latest advances in the field of neuroscience and share the economic and public health benefits of investment in scientific and biomedical research. In total, SfN members met with 81 offices representing 26 states and the District of Columbia.

After participating in Hill Day, the fellows commit to engaging in at least three additional advocacy-related activities at their home institution over the course of the year. They are paired with previous fellows and faculty members from the SfN Government and Public Affairs Committee to guide them through their activities during the year. Nicole plans to continue her fellowship through activities like planning advocacy outreach at annual Brain Awareness Week events and organizing trips to the state capitol to discuss science with legislators.