Dear Research Advocate,
The Senate this week passed the first minibus bill, which contained funding for the NSF ($160 million cut) and the FDA ($50 million increase). The House proposes flat-lining the NSF budget and cutting the FDA budget by $285M. Conferees will reconcile these funding levels. Amid the debate over cutting the FDA budget, the agency released a report highlighting 35 innovative drug approvals in fiscal year 2011, among the highest number in the past decade – all the more reason to keep up the pressure on Congress during the conference processes.
Meanwhile, a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter, led by Reps. Markey (D-MA) and Bilbray (R-CA), has garnered 90 signatures in support of Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rehberg’s (R-MT) $1 billion increase in NIH funding. Research!America has been meeting with key House and Senate members to emphasize that increased medical research funding is a bipartisan way to fuel our nation’s economic engine and should be a higher national priority.
All eyes are on the supercommittee. The November 23 deadline is fast approaching, and the pressure is on. New reports hint members may request a time extension to complete their work, prolonging the anxiety but possibly increasing the likelihood of arriving at a deal. It’s important not to stand back and watch right now; step up to make the case to that cutting funding for research is not a deficit reduction strategy, but rather a recipe for stagnating innovation, stalled medical progress and lagging global competitiveness.
One of the best ways to make that case is in the public eye. The momentum for op-eds continues with an article published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer by former majority leader Dick Gephardt and Mike Leavitt, former secretary of HHS. The authors point out that investing in biomedical innovation is critical for improving health and reducing health care costs while increasing both productivity and job creation. If this sounds like a winning argument, it’s time to emulate it and pen your own op-ed. Our issue is not yet a regular part of the public discourse and must be.
There are many resources to help you make the case. Last week, the NIH released a fact sheet highlighting how NIH-funded research has stimulated the economy, lowered health care costs and saved lives. This fact sheet also points out that other countries are rapidly increasing investment in research, and the U.S. is falling behind. China, for example, is building a genomics center that will exceed the sequencing capability of the entire U.S. and be able to sequence a genome for less than $10,000. It is facts like these – indicators of the importance of medical research funding in the U.S. and the consequences of letting it falter – that illustrate the urgency of our case.
Last week, Research!America, in partnership with the University of South Florida and Pfizer, gathered a distinguished group of journalists and researchers to brainstorm ways to improve science communication in the digital age. The forum, titled “Let Me Be Clear: Science Journalism in the Age of the Genome and Twitter,” featured prominent science journalists from The New York Times, Nature Medicine, St. Petersburg Times and Bloomberg View. The journalists encouraged researchers to build relationships with the media and promote their work in compelling terms to reach a broader audience. In addition, Research!America staff held a well-attended advocacy training workshop for students and faculty. The event, which included release of a Florida public opinion poll that reinforces the still-high aspirations of our citizenry and heightened awareness of science and innovation as an economic driver, was covered by the Herald Tribune, the St. Petersburg Times and by WMNF-Tampa. Let us know if you would like to partner on similar programs at your institution.