Archive for the ‘Research Advocacy’ Category

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Go to bat for health research

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Dear Research!Advocate,

We are just days away from Super Tuesday, with many more states’ primaries ahead. We’ve heard so much talk about so many topics, but almost nothing on issues you and I think about every day. Are you like me, wanting to know what Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have to say about research for health? If enough of us ask their campaigns to let us know, they will do so, as Newt Gingrich and the Obama campaign have already. There is ample evidence that campaigns respond to voter sentiment – especially expressed voter sentiment. That’s our problem as a community of stakeholders in research – we’re not speaking up. More people making the case, making the ask, is what it’s all about. The more of us who speak up – driving home the point that health research is a public priority and an economic engine – the more traction we will have in convincing would-be presidents to address public sector funding and private sector incentives to advance research. Please take a minute, right now, to send a message via our voter education initiative, at this link: http://capwiz.com/ram/issues/alert/?alertid=59636531.

I will be discussing Your Candidates–Your Health, the upcoming elections and the importance of making research for health a higher national priority this Sunday on BioCentury TV.  The show will air in the Washington area at 8:30 a.m. on channel 9, WUSA, and later in the day in the Houston area (where I recently visited our members Baylor College of Medicine, MD Anderson and Rice University). The program will also be posted on BioCentury’s website, www.biocenturytv.com. Please tune in and tweet all about it!

Speaking of Texas, my talk at Baylor stimulated the Houston Chronicle’s “SciGuy,” Eric Berger, to blog all about it. I’m always interested in what nuggets journalists pick up from speeches, be they the speeches of candidates for office or, on a much less grand scale, my own. Mr. Berger thought it noteworthy that few Americans can name a living scientist or identify a place – any place – where research is conducted. If the research enterprise remains essentially invisible to the American public, they are not going to go to bat for us. We have a lot of work to do.

I will be talking about the work that we are doing at our annual meeting in two weeks on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Hemisphere A, The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC. Each institutional member of Research!America is entitled to one vote to elect the proposed slate of Directors. To register for the Annual Meeting, click here, or you may submit your proxy through this link. I hope to see you there and at the other exciting events we have planned throughout the day – the National Health Research Forum and the Advocacy Awards Dinner.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Super Tuesday Ahead – Make Research an Election Issue!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Dear Research Advocate,

Last night marked what could be the last of the Republican debates, but of course it’s not the last we will hear from the candidates. The question is: Will they talk about research as critical to the economy and to health? Not if they aren’t pressed on the topic! Across the country, scientists and researchers are working on this, stepping up advocacy in the form of op-eds and letters to the editor. Just in time for the Michigan primary next week, an op-ed by Dr. Gilbert Omenn of the University of Michigan has been published in The Detroit News. Dr. Omenn highlights the local impact and importance of medical research. And, he includes a call to action: “We should all call upon the candidates to make a firm commitment to strengthen investment in health research and other sectors.”

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Louis Sullivan is in print as well with a syndicated op-ed published in several McClatchy-owned newspapers including The Sacramento Bee in California and has also been picked up on the Bloomberg wire. Sullivan points out that a frozen NIH budget will hurt our health, impede economic growth and do nothing to help alleviate growing health disparities in the U.S.

On Super Tuesday, March 6, 10 more states will hold their primaries: We are standing by to help you write an op-ed to appear in AK, GA, ID, MA, ND, OH, OK, TN, VT or VA. Let’s make sure science and health research are part of the election dialogue.

If you are not already signed up, please join us March 14, when Research!America convenes our annual National Forum, “World Class to Second Class? Confronting the Risks to U.S. Science and Innovation,” featuring agency heads and other research leaders from across the country. The Forum will be moderated by Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, David Leonhardt, and Dr. Richard Besser, senior health and medical editor for ABC News. Panelists and the audience will discuss what it will take to maintain our nation’s leadership in research and innovation. This is the only annual event that brings all the health research agency heads together. More information and event registration can be found here.

March 14 is also the date of our Annual Advocacy Awards dinner. I am thrilled to announce that Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland will be with us to receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. Sen. Mikulski has been a staunch advocate for research for health and the physical sciences, leading efforts to stem heart disease in women, advance Alzheimer’s research, and help ensure patient safety through the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). Other award winners are Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN), Dr. Margaret Foti (American Association of Cancer Research), Mr. Scott Johnson (Myelin Repair Foundation), Dr. Donald Lindberg (National Library of Medicine) and the Food Allergy Initiative. Please join me in recognizing those who have made such a tremendous difference for health and medical research in this country.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: How Did Research Fare in the President’s Budget? And now what?

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Dear Research Advocate,

As we discussed yesterday in a Research!America members-only conference call, President Obama’s budget recommendations for FY13, while positive for NSF, AHRQ and FDA, effectively flat-funded NIH, and CDC was cut dramatically. Particularly during a tough climb back to economic stability, our nation cannot afford to tread water or set back the clock on medical innovation and public health. Budget cuts have already had a negative impact on research institutions as this recent article in the Cincinnati Business Journal highlights.

During our call we heard from top White House officials that the administration’s goal is for 3% of GDP to be committed to R&D (public and private sector combined), a level not seen since the 1960s. Getting there is a heavy lift, however, particularly given the current strictures established by the Budget Control Act. The White House and the media know that we will be fighting for stronger budgets for science from Congress. Doing anything less is a ticket to reduced economic activity, stymied potential for more efficient and effective health care, and widened gaps in the infrastructure that prevent costly and potentially deadly public health incidents. Read our release on the president’s budget here and see recent articles on the president’s budget in The Hill and PharmaTimes that include portions of our statement. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) will be holding a conference call tonight at 6:30 p.m. EST – be sure to call in to learn more about science in the president’s budget. RSVP here to obtain the dial-in number.

When it comes to NIH, advocates must be steadfast. There is not a lot of maneuvering room, but I still believe we can and should go farther than the president’s budget. NIH should be funded at no less than $32 billion in FY13, which is a $1.3 billion increase over the president’s request. Last year, we saw support for a $1 billion increase in NIH despite overall budget cuts. This year we need to build on that momentum, taking it from recommendations and failed amendments to reality. We have to make the case that to flat-fund NIH is to undercut the nation’s determination to return to economic growth and prosperity.

Don’t let up. Write or visit your elected representatives; a visit to your member’s local office is a great plan during one of the scheduled recesses coming up. Pen an op-ed or letter to the editor. If you are a patient, the family member of one, or a scientist, use your phone or computer to produce a video explaining why medical research is important to you and to our nation. Research!America will make sure your video makes waves. We’d be glad to help you with any of the other advocacy activities I’ve mentioned as well. And send me your ideas! Are there other ways advocates can make the case for federal research funding? Let me know your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

P.S.  Election watch:  Last week, the Huffington Post published a strong article by a postdoctoral scientist from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Michael Ham writes, “As calls to reduce federal benefits grow louder, we must fight short-sighted cuts to the science based engines that underlie our medical, economic, and military might.” Dr. Ham is running for U.S. Senate in Nevada and has stepped up for science as few candidates have.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The State of Science

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Dear Research Advocate,

The state of science is very much linked to the State of the Union. As we heard from the president Tuesday night, our nation must prioritize investment in research, including medical research. Read our press statement on the State of the Union. Nature also covered the speech, highlighting President Obama’s remarks on medical research and linking to our Your Candidates-Your Health webpage.

The election frenzy continues! The Florida presidential primary is right around the corner. The media pulse in Florida includes research as an issue, with Win Phillips and David Guzick of the University of Florida writing a compelling piece in the Tampa Bay Times about the importance of maintaining our investment in medical research. The authors write, “… the cost of medical research is small compared to its benefits in raising our quality of life and supporting innovation, entrepreneurship and Florida’s technology economy.” The myriad benefits of research are well known to researchers, but we must continue to keep this message top-of-mind for policy makers and the public alike.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal a few days ago and responded to a question posed by Research!America’s science policy fellow, Dr. Erin Cadwalader. In his remarks, Sen. Santorum said that basic research is something the government does well. Visit the C-SPAN website for a complete response; see the 8:55 mark in the clip.

On Tuesday, Nature published an article on the Republican candidates’ views on science, “Candidates play to the right on science.” The article highlights our Your Candidates–Your Health initiative, quoting former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s response and views on science. The article also notes that both Mitt Romney and Gingrich are opposed to embryonic stem cell research and if elected, would likely reverse the executive order that allows the federal government to fund research in this critical area. We’re still missing responses from the other candidates. Please take a moment to reach out to the Romney, Santorum and Paul campaigns to ask them to respond to the questionnaire.

Candidates must be convinced that support of research is a winning political issue for them; it is up to the people who care the most – you! – to help shape the debate. Join us now!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Global health is America’s health: US Department of Health and Human Services announces first global health strategy

Friday, January 6th, 2012

“Our primary mission at HHS is to keep Americans healthy and safe.”  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius opened this week’s announcement of the Department’s first ever global health strategy by reminding everyone that global health is America’s health. Putting global health into perspective, Sebelius stated, “diseases can spread faster and more unpredictably than ever before. As recently as 1963, just 26,000 passengers came through the Dulles Airport. In 2010, 6.4 million international passengers passed through Dulles. More than a million people drive across our borders, dock in our ports or land in our airports every day and any one of them can bring a new virus or bug. And it’s not just people – two-thirds of our food supply is imported. We must take a global approach to improving Americans’ health. The US can and should play an active effort in shaping a healthy world. Health is an issue that aligns all countries around the world.”

The strategy lays out three main goals and ten objectives for global health engagement, reflecting its efforts to prioritize and maximize results. As Nils Daulaire, HHS responded to an audience member’s question on implementation of a bold strategy in this economic and political climate, “the tighter things are, the more important it is to have a strategy that helps us deal with where we are now.” This report helps us show how we’re all working together in an integrated way and making the best investments possible. During the briefing, panelists praised the strategy for its integration of various Health and Human Services agencies, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, its coordination with other US departments involved in global health and its priority setting among other U.S. government strategies, such as the Global Health Initiative. Research!America’s U.S. agency fact sheets capture the contributions and unique value of each of these agencies and departments in global health and global health R&D.

The panel also highlighted the importance of global health as a foreign policy issue, contributing to the security and stability of the world. Kerri Ann Jones, U.S. State Department stated, “we need to know what’s going on around the world to know how and what will affect us.” While this is “money well spent” as stressed by Helene Gayle, CARE, fellow panelist Ariel Pablo-Mendez, U.S. Agency for International Development reminded the audience that we need to make sure we’re capturing the successes of the last 20 years. Gayle and Jennifer Kates, Kaiser Family Foundation also cautioned that we need to be sure the political discussion doesn’t trump the health issues and that they reflect the American public support for global health. Kates noted from the Foundation’s work that the American public cares about global health because they know it’s the right thing to do.

Research!America’s most recent state-based global health polls also reflect strong support for global health and global health R&D funding. 72% of Marylanders are concerned about global health, 74% of Georgians believe that global health research is important to Georgia’s economy and 70% of Californians feel Americans would be better off if the U.S. invested in global health research. While we know these investments are the right thing for the world, it is also our responsibility to make the complete case for global health and global health R&D by telling the full story – that these investments are also the smart thing for the US. See some examples of how these investments are paying off for states around the nation.

Through its policy and advocacy efforts, Research!America is playing an active role in the goals and objectives laid out by HHS in their new report. For more information, please go to: http://globalhealth.kff.org/Multimedia/2012/January/05/gh010512video.aspx

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A New Year, New Momentum for Research

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

As we approach the New Year, a quick summary and word of thanks is in order.  Despite the unprecedented fiscal environment and an extraordinarily polarized Congress, research fared relatively well over the past year. NIH, CDC, NSF, and FDA all received budget increases in 2011, while AHRQ was cut slightly. The advocacy community has played a critical role in conveying to the public and policymakers that research should be a higher priority in America. Thank you for all your efforts over the past year. Read our year end press release with a statement from Research!America’s Chair, The Honorable John Porter.

In 2012, we face the fallout of the Supercommittee, which will bring devastating 8% across-the-board cuts beginning in January 2013 unless Congress reverses course. Everything that Congress does in 2012 will be with an eye on the November election. The presidential election is already in full swing with the Iowa Caucuses right around the corner and the Congressional races gearing up.

Medical progress – or the lack thereof – has implications for every American. As the elections approach, we must work together to ensure that research is an issue that every candidate has addressed. Our voter education initiative, Your Candidates–Your Health has attracted the attention of leading presidential candidates and media including The Hill and The New York Times, as well as over 100 print and online media hits for the press release covering the initiative and relevant poll data.  But we need advocates like you to help sustain the momentum. Attend a town hall meeting, write an op-ed or letter to the editor, and work with the media to make sure that candidates are talking about research. As I’ve said before and will again — we can’t expect elected officials who never talk about research as a national priority to suddenly decide to do so after they have taken office. We have to convince them now of the winning nature of championing research. Winning for the country, and a way to help them win election!

With the Iowa Caucuses coming up on January 3, the timing was good for our letter to the editor published last week in the Des Moines Register, commenting on Grinell President Raynard Kington’s op-ed and calling for the presidential candidates to talk about medical research. If you reside in the states with an early primary –  New Hampshire, Florida, or South Carolina – please get in touch. We will work together to get an op-ed placed in your state.

And don’t think only of those states. Follow the lead of Research!America Board member and Nobel Laureate Dr. Carol Greider who had an excellent op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun. In the article, Dr. Greider explains that “Our nation’s elected leaders are not championing science — or even talking about it, during presidential debates or on the floor of the Congress — even as other nations are stepping up their determination to match and exceed the U.S. in discovery. It takes years to realize the multiple benefits of science; without adequate, sustained funding for research, the careers of many bright, young scientists may come to a screeching halt.” This is the right message to send to the public and policymakers – if we fail to support research now we lose out on a better future for our nation.

A terrific op-ed by Dr. Huda Akil, neuroscientist at the University of Michigan and former President of the Society for Neuroscience, was recently published in The Washington Times. Under the title, “An Incomparable Nation,” Dr. Akil writes, “… there is a more fundamental reason, I believe, to support science in this country and to keep on doing so even during tough times. A reason that the world seems to recognize but we in America seem to be forgetting: Discovery is at the heart of what America is.” Research is part of America’s DNA, but we must work every day to ensure that our elected leaders don’t take this for granted.

Please help us fulfill our mission to make research for health a higher national priority.  For patients and their families, for our nation’s economic strength in the 21st century, for researchers and research institutions across the country…it has never been more important.  Donate now.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Washington and Iowa

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

After yet another short term continuing resolution, Congress has finally passed an omnibus bill that will fund the government through fiscal year 2012 and has moved on to other very contentious topics.  Including previously signed appropriations increases for FDA and NSF it is fair to say that overall, research has fared reasonably well in the current fiscal climate. Many of us, and you, have worked hard to achieve this.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – advocacy matters!  The NIH has received an increase of about $299 million,  significant given the severity of the current fiscal climate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have received an increase of about $25 million and the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which was under significant threat, has been level funded. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) received a slight cut by about $3 million.

Enormous challenges lie ahead. The failure of the Supercommittee triggers an 8% across-the-board cut, in January 2013, if allowed to stand.  I am among those who believe that Congress will un-do much of the sequestration, although not necessarily to our advantage (much will depend on the strength of concerned interests in making their case).  And if no change happens before the election next November 6, the then lame-duck Congress may well exert its influence – but again, not necessarily in a way that the science community would relish.  And coming right up in the new year there will be great pressure to find additional cuts in the annual appropriations process, which will begin in February with the release of the President’s budget.  In my view, 2012 is the most important year for science on record;  stepped-up advocacy is essential!

And that is why it was good to see the Salk Institute and 33 Nobel Prize winners pen a letter to President Obama on NIH funding . The San Diego Union-Tribune covered the letter and quotes Dr. Roger Guillemin, who said “This funding crisis not only threatens the work of established, productive investigators but it endangers the well being of our future workforce and the ability to train the next generation of young investigators upon whom our economic future depends.” With so much at stake, now is not the time cut funding.

Also in the news this week was an op-ed written by former Research!America board member Dr. Bill Brinkley and Paul G. Rogers Global Health Ambassador Dr. Peter Hotez. Their article in the Houston Chronicle explains how U.S. scientists’ publications have fallen to third place in terms of scientific impact, behind Germany and the U.K. This is even more evidence that we are losing our competitiveness at a time when NIH funding is essentially flat and grant success rates are at an all-time low. States and the federal government alike need to maintain our nation’s long-standing commitment to science by continuing to support robust investment in research.

Especially given the national attention to Iowa, with the caucuses taking place there in less than two weeks, we were especially pleased to see an op-ed authored by Dr. Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell College and former NIH associate director appear in the Des Moines Register. Dr. Kington points out that medical research is a critical issue for our nation with implications for our economy, our health, and the cost of healthcare, yet the presidential candidates have said relatively little on the topic.  To his point, I am glad to report that in response to a questionnaire from our voter education initiative, Your Candidates – Your Health we have heard from the Gingrich and Obama campaigns.  Today’s release on this topic also includes current public opinion poll data.  Check it out here: http://www.researchamerica.org/release_22dec11_ycyh

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Congress Continues to Debate Final Spending Bill

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

As Research!America Chair John Porter and I discussed in our members-only call Monday, Congress has been struggling to finalize a large spending bill and resolve several other issues before their hoped-for departure Friday. At the time of this writing, the conference bill contains a $300 million increase for NIH, a $38 million increase for CDC and $3 million cut for AHRQ. However, the same bill also contains across-the-board cuts, which could effectively cancel out the increases. The across-the-board cuts are currently being debated and some or all may not be included in the final agreement. We are staying very close to the decision makers during this high-stakes time.

Holiday season or not, this is no time to rest. Research agencies — already on alert , using precious time and resources to prepare for the possibility of a government shutdown Friday at midnight, and still unsure about their budgets for a fiscal year that began on October 1 — will be facing additional pressure in the new year as the threat of an 8% sequester (across-the-board cut) still looms. The best strategy for stakeholders in research is to take every opportunity to raise the profile and importance of health research. You can do this by making sure it is an issue in the presidential election cycle. The Iowa caucuses are less than three weeks away, and several primaries will follow in close succession. Especially if you live in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Florida, please contact us about penning an op-ed pointing out that research should be addressed by the presidential campaigns, for economic as well as health reasons. We expect to release information from the candidates next week as we go public with phase one of our voter education initiative, Your Candidates–Your Health; watch for this and build on it!

Speaking of news you can use as an advocate, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) has released new polling data about medical research and deficit reduction. The data, which tracks what we are seeing in our commissioned polls and adds political texture, shows that 62% of Americans are opposed to significant cuts in medical research. Opposition to cuts remains strong among both Republicans and Democrats. When given a choice of several government programs that might be cut, only 7% of respondents selected medical research. You know and the American people know that cutting medical research is not a deficit reduction strategy; join me in spreading the word!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

White House Seeks Comment from Stakeholders on Bioeconomy Blueprint

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy wants to hear from you.

Back in September, President Barack Obama announced that his administration was developing a National Bioeconomy Blueprint. Now, as that development begins, OSTP is looking for input.

Specifically, they’re looking for ideas on how to achieve six goals, which were outlined on a recent OSTP blog post:

  • strategies to meet grand challenges in lean budget times;
  • commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities to open new markets;
  • research and development investments in areas that will provide the foundation for the bioeconomy;
  • enhancements of workforce training to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers for the bioeconomy jobs of the future;
  • regulatory reforms that will reduce unnecessary burdens and impediments while protecting health and safety, and
  • bioeconomy public-private partnerships to accelerate innovation in key areas

All are worthy goals, but all could use your input. OSTP asks you to email your thoughts to bioeconomy@ostp.gov by 11:59 ET on December 6.

This is a chance to have the administration listen to your ideas. So if you have one, what are you waiting for?

A Unique Blog from a Stem Cell Researcher

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

While some of our Research!America colleagues were attending the recent World Stem Cell Summit in Pasadena, CA, they had a chance to hear from a researcher with a one-of-a-kind megaphone.

Paul Knoepfler, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy at the UC-Davis School of Medicine, also runs a blog from his lab. The blog, he writes, is “currently the only stem cell blog in the world written by a faculty level scientist.”

Knoepfler was also a panelist at the World Stem Cell Summit, where he discussed ways to empower researchers and advocates through social media, including blogs. But he also took in the lessons that the Summit had to offer, producing a succinct list of seven takeaways that came from the Summit.

Among them: “We need scientists to be advocates. Of course there are already great scientist advocates and many were at the WSCS, but they are probably <1% of stem cell scientists. We need scientists to go outside their traditional comfort zones and advocate using their authority in public. This is a woefully underutilized strength. Some ideas include workshops by [the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine] and WSCS that directly teach and encourage scientists to do this. I’d be happy to be involved in making this happen. It is crucial.”

Of course, we couldn’t agree more. Blogs are a great way to be an ambassador for what you do, and Knoepfler does exactly that. His blog is easy to understand, even for those outside the lab; how else could one even attempt to write “A Layman’s Guide to Stem Cell Epigenetics“?

And if an English major can get the hang of what he’s saying, then that should count as a success for Knoepfler – one that can be emulated by most any researcher.

Cancer Survivor Recounts How NIH Research Saved His Life

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Michael Moskowitz, a third-year student at the University of Virginia Law School, wrote an op-ed for the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch telling of his diagnosis, treatment and recovery from non-Hodgkins lymphoma – and how the National Institutes of Health and Food and Drug Administration spared him from a death sentence.

“Only months earlier, I had been a typical healthy American male in his 20s. Suddenly, there was a 50 percent chance that I would never live to see my 30th birthday,” Moskowitz wrote in the op-ed, which was published Monday. “Less than five years later, I now have the privilege of attending law school at the University of Virginia, where I am able to pursue health law and policy. My battle with cancer is a thing of the past, and I am in the best shape of my life. How is this possible?

“Forty years ago, this would not have been possible. In fact, even 15 years ago, it would not have been possible. For the drug that saved my life, Rituxan, was approved by the FDA in 1997. Without Rituxan, I would not be in law school today. I would not be writing this article. I would not be alive.”

Moskowitz goes on to mention the role of the NIH – and specifically the National Cancer Institute – in developing a treatment that allows him to thrive today. The op-ed also mentions polling by Research!America, which has consistently shown strong public support for federally funded research to improve health.

The NIH has awarded $290 million in grants to research institutes in Virginia; U.Va. and Virginia Commonwealth University (a Research!America member) are the most-funded institutes in the commonwealth, according to NIH.

“Continued investments are needed now more than ever to address the growing health challenges in Virginia and to spur medical innovation that will drive job creation during these difficult economic times,” Moskowitz wrote. “Continued cuts to NIH funding will have devastating consequences for Virginians, and our elected representatives must heed our call and fight to maintain the NIH budget.”

Research!America honors leading health research advocates

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Research!America’s 16th Annual Advocacy Awards event will convene leaders from government, academia, industry and health advocacy organizations to honor some of the leading medical and health research advocates of our time. The event will take place on the evening of Wednesday, March 14, 2012, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC.

The 2012 Advocacy Award winners are Scott Johnson, president and founder, Myelin Repair Foundation; Sanjay Gupta, MD, chief medical correspondent, CNN; Donald Lindberg, MD, director, National Library of Medicine; Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (h.c.), CEO, American Association for Cancer Research; and the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI). A sixth Advocacy Award winner will be named by Research!America’s Board of Directors in December 2011.

“This year’s awardees have significantly raised the bar on scientific and policy achievements in their respective fields and shone a spotlight on the immeasurable benefits of research,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America.“ We strongly believe their accomplishments will inspire others to be bold and innovative in advancing research and making it a high priority for our nation.”

What’s That Patch on Coach’s Arm?

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Like many of you, we at Research!America are happy it’s Friday and are looking toward the weekend. And like many of you, our weekend will likely involve watching some football. (And a few of us will be watching significantly more than “some” football.)

Whether you plan on watching a game from your couch or attending a game, take a moment to look at the coaches. This weekend, many of them will be wearing armbands in support of raising awareness and raising money to fund research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which currently has no cure or even a treatment.

The effort, called Coach to Cure MD, is a collaboration between the American Football Coaches Association and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy; the latter is a Research!America member.

Beyond the armbands, ads – like the one above featuring Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano – will appear during broadcasts this weekend. But coaches whose games won’t be televised will also be involved in the program; the list of participating schools includes as many from top tier of college football as from smaller schools in Division II and Division III. Many of Research!America academic members that sponsor a football program are scheduled to participate as well.

So whether your team is winning or losing, take a moment Saturday to appreciate the coaches who are taking part in the program; their support helps researchers who can bring us closer to a treatment for Duchenne.

Scientists Should Engage the Public; And If You Don’t Believe Us, Believe Them

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Minnesota Public Radio featured an hour-long discussion Tuesday about the role of scientists as it relates to communicating with the public.

Their conclusion isn’t much different from ours: Scientists should engage the public whenever possible.

It’s one thing for us to say it, but it’s another for scientists and elected officials to say it. MPR host Kerri Miller discussed the topic with Rep. Rush Holt, PhD (D-NJ) and Brian Athey, PhD, and Andrew Hoffman, PhD, both of the University of Michigan.

Each of them get it. Scientists are wired differently, with a deep appreciation of empirical data. But that doesn’t have to prevent them from trying to explain gray areas to the non-scientific public.

Some samples of what they had to say:

Holt: “I think scientists can be made comfortable with the idea of speaking out in a way that preserves the understanding that our knowledge is provisional. As physicists like to say, there’s always a patent clerk in Switzerland by the name of Einstein who will overturn everything you think you know. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak out on what you know.”

Athey: “Throughout our life, we have to wear different hats. What we don’t want to do is to blur distinctions when we play different roles in society. When we’re scientists and engineers, we often are driven by a very focused question. When we engage as citizens, we don’t put our scientist or engineer persona in a closet. We should take advantage of it.”

Hoffman: “I do think that part of the problem that we have right now is the lack of scientific voices in the debate. The incentives within academia simply aren’t there. Engaging in the public debate is not what my dean wants to see me do … There is a certain attitude in academia that I just do my research and let the public work it out.”

The hook was that in the wake of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s comments on his skepticism on climate change, could scientists do a better job at speaking out on scientific issues? The consensus was yes, they can.

The segment doesn’t focus on one area of science. Instead, it’s a reminder for scientists of all stripes.

To hear the full segment, visit MPR’s webpage or listen the embedded recording below.

Tell President Obama that Health Research Creates Jobs for America

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Next month, President Barack Obama will release a proposal for jump starting the US economy and creating jobs. Renewed investments in health research will create the high quality jobs that the economy needs while bringing us closer to improved treatments and cures.

Send a message to President Obama today to thank him for his past support of health research and to urge him to include medical research in his jobs proposal. Please help us spread this message by ‘liking’ it on Facebook and sharing with your networks.

Thank you all for your efforts to protect health research. Our previous alert generated nearly 2,000 messages to Congress! We’ve also been sending out weekly advocacy tips for those who wish to get more involved – now is the time to step up your efforts.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America President & CEO Mary Woolley

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

Over the past week we have witnessed the US credit rating downgraded and the resulting economic turmoil. If there were a rating agency for US competitiveness in the global arena, we would likely be facing the same bad news in that arena. As China and other countries increase their investment in R&D, our nation is losing ground. We cannot continue on this trajectory. Innovation drives our economy; the lack of it sets the stage for disaster. Maintaining our global lead in R&D is one of the many reasons our nation must prioritize funding for the National Institutes of Health and other agencies that support research at universities, academic medical centers, and independent research institutes across our nation.

The debt deal will have major, long-term implications for discretionary spending, but the deal actually provides about $25 billion in funding above the level previously passed by the House for fiscal year 2012. This means that the House may revise its spending limits upward, providing yet another opportunity for advocates to continue to make the case for prioritizing increased support for medical research.

Since fiscal year 2012 spending levels will become the new baseline upon which future spending changes will be determined, it is critical that we push for maximum funding for the NIH and other health agencies now. As I noted last week, it will be tremendously difficult to regain ground lost in future years – given the no-growth annual spending limits imposed by the debt deal — if funding levels drop for health research in fiscal year 2012.

As a community, we must do all we can to ensure health research funding is not dismantled. We must work together to raise the profile of health research funding, ensuring that the NIH and our other federal health agencies receive the funding needed to fulfill their respective roles in promoting treatments, cures, and preventative measures to improve the nation’s health. Patients across the country are counting on you.

Make sure lawmakers know that smart investments in research can help revitalize state and local economies with the good jobs that keep America competitive. Tell the story of how research is making a difference at home. Below, we’ve provided a link to an NIH grant database that shows funding by Congressional district. We’ve also provided links and talking points from two reports that demonstrate the economic impact of NIH supported research across the nation. Using this information, you can send a customized letter to your representatives so that they know research is making a difference.

Every day during the month of August, Members of Congress are announcing upcoming town hall meetings across the nation. As these events are announced, you will be receiving a notification email indicating when town hall meetings will be held in your state or district. I urge you to attend and make sure that your representative knows that research is a priority for you and your organization. Some of you may have already attended a town hall meeting. If so, let us know if health research was discussed. Email Max G. Bronstein, manager of science policy, at mbronstein@researchamerica.org.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

NIH Funding in Your District

The NIH Reporter database provides an overview of all NIH funding and can be displayed by Congressional district. To see a list of active NIH grants in your district, simply follow the steps below:
• Go to http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm
• In the ‘State’ field, select your state
• In the ‘Congressional District’ field, select your district*
• Click submit query
*If you’re unsure of your Congressional district, locate them by ZIP code here.

The NIH Reporter database will generate a listing of all grants in your district, along with key information about the nature of the research, the grant amount, and the PIs. Use this information in your advocacy efforts to demonstrate that research is indispensable to your district.

Economic Impact of Research

In May 2011, United for Medical Research released a report entitled: An Economic Engine – NIH Research, Employment, and the Future of the Medical Innovation Sector. Key findings include:
• In 2010, NIH investment supported 487,900 jobs and produced $68 billion in new economic activity across the US
• In 2010, NIH extramural research awards totaled nearly $22 billion, supporting research at universities, hospitals, small businesses, and independent research institutes in every state
The full report along with a table of economic impact by state can be found here (PDF).

In May 2011, Battelle Technology Partnership Practice released a report titled: Economic Impact of the Human Genome Project (HGP). Key findings include:
• The $3.8 billion the government investment in the HGP resulted in a staggering $796 billion dollar return on investment to the US economy
• This investment resulted in support for 310,000 jobs in 2010 with average annual incomes of nearly $64,000
The full report can be found here (PDF).

Use these data points to demonstrate to policymakers that research makes a big difference in our state and local economies. We need to continue to invest in research to improve health in order to power our economy and keep Americans healthy.

Send a Customized Message

With these reports and other advocacy messaging on hand, you may wish to send a custom letter to your representatives. This link will enable you to quickly send your message to your Members.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America President & CEO Mary Woolley

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Dear Research Advocate,

The debt ceiling negotiations are continuing this week and the August 2nd deadline continues to loom large. The most likely scenario is that an increase in the debt ceiling will be coupled with stringent, annual caps on discretionary spending. The appropriations committees in the House and Senate will then be charged with making the funding cuts necessary to meet the fiscal year 2012 spending cap.

Unless we speak up and urge all those we know to join us, the NIH and other health agencies could be facing dramatic, unprecedented budget cuts. For example, a budget cap that requires an annual discretionary decrease of $100 billion would translate into roughly a 17% cut in non-defense discretionary spending. If spending cuts are spread evenly across all programs, as some members of Congress have proposed, a 17% cut would mean a $5 billion dollar reduction in NIH funding and a $1 billion dollar reduction in NSF funding. CDC and the other health agencies would face similar, devastating cuts.

We must convince policymakers of what we know to be true: robust support for health research is not an arbitrary use of federal funds, it is a strategic investment in the economic potential of our nation and the health and well-being of Americans. Simply put, cutting federal research spending is NOT a deficit reduction strategy. Policymakers need to hear from us that federally-supported research and research conducted by private sector companies go hand in hand to produce medical breakthroughs. Countries like China are increasing their R&D investment, and it is not acceptable for the U.S. to fall behind.

We’ve had such a terrific response to our weekly letters, both from individuals and from organizations like the Food Allergy Initiative, which sent our advocacy materials to 40,000 people. We need to build on this momentum and work together to fight for health research.

A link to our latest advocacy alert can be found here. These alerts are an important way for constituents to speak out and stay informed about legislative issues that impact health research. Following this link also enables you to send personalized messages to your representatives. To maximize the impact of these alerts, share this link with your networks and “Like” the alert on Facebook or on other social media.

In addition, we provide a brief historical perspective on federal research, with a quote and some insight on the importance of research from a radio address by former President Reagan.

Leveraging the power of personal networks is essential for effective advocacy. This week, we provide some suggested language for reaching out to friends and colleagues via email and Facebook to ask that they become advocates too.

Lastly, letting Congress and the public know that research is essential for our economy is of the utmost importance. We provide two web tools to help make the case that research is indispensable to state economies.

Thank you for your efforts. Together, we will make a difference.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

An Historical Perspective

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan delivered a radio address on the federal role in scientific research. This week, we?d like to highlight a quote that holds great meaning during today?s fiscal constraints and ongoing debate over national priorities:

“We cannot know where scientific research will lead. The consequences and spin-offs are unknown and unknowable until they happen. In research, as Albert Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge. We can travel wherever the eye of our imagination can see. But one thing is certain: If we don’t explore, others will, and we’ll fall behind. This is why I’ve urged Congress to devote more money to research. After taking out inflation, today’s government research expenditures are 58 percent greater than the expenditures of a decade ago. It is an indispensable investment in America’s future.
–President Ronald Reagan, 1988 radio address

Template Email for Involving Your Friends, Family, and Colleagues in Advocacy

We also encourage you to reach out to individuals in your network that may be willing to speak out on behalf of medical research. The following template may be used in correspondence.

I am writing you today because Congress is currently making decisions that could dramatically affect our health. Congress has already cut funding for medical research, a decision that will slow progress toward finding new life-saving treatments and cures. I?m asking for your help in speaking out to prevent cuts to medical research. Please, take 30 seconds to send a message to Congress to let them know that you do not support cuts to medical research, by following this link.

Facebook Status

In addition to reaching out via email, Facebook can also be a highly effective tool for increasing the impact of advocacy. What follows is brief status update or wall post that can be used for a personal or organizational Facebook page.

Tell Congress: Enough is Enough. No More Cuts to Medical Research.

How much does the federal government invest in my state?

Members of Congress and their staff are often surprised at just how large an impact health research has in their state. Informing policymakers and their staff is a crucial step in effective advocacy. To assist you in this effort, Research!America has developed a web feature that allows you to see how much federal research funding your state is receiving. We highly recommend citing this important data in your outreach to Congress.

What is the economic impact of research in my state?

We have an additional web tool that provides further evidence of the economic impact of research funding by state. This data aggregates total R&D funding, including industry, and contains information on the number of research-intensive jobs along with salary data. Given the fragile state of our national economy, it is essential for Congress and the public to understand that research is a powerful state economic driver that improves our health and forms the foundation of our 21st century economy.

Complacency is Not an Option

Monday, July 25th, 2011

The Research!America Executive Committee met recently to discuss the critical importance of our alliance’s advocacy in the face of (1) uncharted political waters and (2) a disturbing sense of complacency and even resignation in the research stakeholder community. As evidenced by recent developments, the endgame politics around the debt ceiling talks have escalated again. The president cited greater cuts to research as one of the consequences of a stand-off or default. Stakeholders in the research community cannot afford to be passive bystanders – you must act now.

Decisions will be made soon. That is why it is critical to speak up now. We all know that researchers, research-based institutions, patients and their families and our nation’s economic future will all be worse off if Congress chokes off funding for health research.

  • We can’t afford to lag other nations when it comes to R&D. Without research-fueled innovation, our economy will continue to sputter.
  • We can’t afford to stall progress against life-threatening and disabling diseases, biding our time as chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune disorders, depression, PTSD and other health threats take a rapidly increasing human and fiscal toll.
  • We can’t afford to dismantle the basic research infrastructure at universities, academic medical centers and independent research institutions across the country, hamstringing the U.S. R&D pipeline.
  • We know that whether the goal is to wage battle against diseases like Alzheimer’s or to ensure our nation remains competitive in the global economy, it is counterproductive and counterintuitive to divest from medical research. Now we must get that message across to Congress. Research!America is committed to providing advocacy tools to help you do just that. Behind this link, you’ll find messaging points, a phone script for calls to Members of Congress and a draft petition you can circulate and send to your representatives. If Research!America can be helpful as you pursue any of these options, please don’t hesitate to contact Ellie Dehoney at 571-482-2717 or edehoney@researchamerica.org.

    If we keep fighting together, we will make a difference.

    Learning from the HIV/AIDS Advocacy Movement

    Friday, June 17th, 2011

    June 30 marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of HIV. In recognition of the anniversary of this virus that exploded into a global pandemic, Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures and Michael Manganiello, founding partner of HCM Strategists hosted a forum to discuss the results of their new report, “Back to Basics: HIV/AIDS Advocacy as a Model for Catalyzing Change.”

    The forum convened leaders in the medical research community who played a role in the HIV/AIDS advocacy movement to discuss how the lessons of the movement that redefined the medical research paradigm can be applied to our own advocacy causes today.

    Manganiello, who shared that he is living with HIV, revealed the five key elements of the HIV/AIDS advocacy model as he and Anderson saw it: attention, knowledge and solutions, community, accountability, and leadership.

    These five elements, he said, were critical to the success of the movement. Getting attention was the necessary catalyst; knowledgeable activists were essential in getting their message across; a sense of community held the movement together; people had to be held accountable for making their requests a reality; and strong leadership on the outside (activists) were necessary to encourage leaders on the inside (Congress) to get results.

    The panelists agreed that knowledge was perhaps most critical to the success of the HIV/AIDS advocacy movement.

    “Knowledge is precisely the thing that got them attention,” panelist Maureen Byrnes, formerly of the Institute of Medicine and Pew Charitable Trusts, said. HIV/AIDS activists affected change by taking the time to learn how systems worked and how science worked. And once they got attention, they were logical: They knew what would be accepted in the political and scientific communities, said panelist Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    Advocates may be able to articulate a problem, but they must also be able to articulate a solution. Once you have the attention of the people you want, James Curran, MD, of Emory University said, you have to deliver. Panelist Brenda Lein of the Foundation for AIDS and Immune Research put it like this: “If you open a door, you have to decide what you’re going to do when you sit down at a table.”

    The panelists concluded that three critical lessons from the HIV/AIDS advocacy movement can be applied to any cause:

      1) Be clear about what you want.
      2) Don’t wait to be invited.
      3) Question the way things are done: If you’re not satisfied, don’t settle.

    FasterCures and Emory University are Research!America members.