Posts Tagged ‘Nature Medicine’

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Keep up the pressure on Congress

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

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.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America & Partners Host a Forum on Science Journalism

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Research!America, together with Pfizer and the University of Maryland, had an impressive lineup of scientists and journalists on the panels of the Maryland-based Research Partners Forum, “Let Me Be Clear: Science Journalism in the Age of the Genome and Twitter,” Wednesday at the National Press Club.

The forum aimed to generate an interactive dialogue about the ways journalists and scientists can work together in the evolving environments of both fields.

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, began the event by presenting the results of a new Maryland-based poll commissioned by Research!America about science and journalism.

Susan Dentzer, editor-in-chief of Health Affairs and a Research!America board member, moderated two panels of experts.

The first panel included Kevin Klose, dean of the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland; Maggie Fox, technology and health care managing editor at the National Journal; Vickie Freimuth, PhD, director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication; Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association and a Research!America board member; Gardiner Harris, public health reporter for The New York Times; and Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures.

Dentzer opened the first panel by asking how best to communicate scientific progress and discoveries in 140 characters or less, as Twitter demands. Anderson’s response was simple, but enlightening: Communicate frequently, update your message and speak in plain English.

“Just dive in, is my approach,” Anderson said.

Who knew it could be so simple?

Of course, that’s not all there is to it. More often than not, scientific findings come in the form of complicated statistics that aren’t always easy for the non-scientific public to understand. What’s more, communication is black and white, while science is often shades of gray. Communicating scientific uncertainty was another topic discussed by the panel. How can it be done? A clear answer didn’t emerge. It’s a tough problem to tackle, but the important thing is that it’s being talked about. Strides are being made.

The second panel included Jack Watters, MD, vice president for external medical affairs at Pfizer and a Research!America board member; Alice Park, senior science reporter at TIME Magazine; Elie Dolgin, PhD, news editor at Nature Medicine; E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Maryland; Robert Gold, PhD, founding dean of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health; and Carol Rogers, PhD, professor at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Early in the second panel discussion, Reece made a keen observation: We have two groups that would like to be linked: science and journalism. We need to bridge that gap. Piggybacking off of that, Rogers pointed out that neither field can do it alone; they must work together.

Park noted that in this age of the Internet, where anyone can talk about anything, journalists need to help the public understand why scientific results may contradict and why journalists choose the sources they do when reporting a scientific finding. In other words, journalists must make critical scientific discoveries understandable to the public.

“What we [journalists] decide to report on indicates to you that it’s important,” Park said.

But journalists aren’t 100% responsible for communicating scientific messages – scientists themselves must do some of that, too. Watters contended that if you look for scientists to communicate, you’ll find that most of them want to, but they must be given the tools to do so. Scientists must be trained to communicate. Luckily, Rogers said, there’s been a dramatic increase in nonprofits offering communication training to scientists.

As one panelist noted, it’s important for scientists not to think of communicating with the public as “dumbing it down,” instead, think of it as making the information more accessible.

Park and Rogers concluded the final Q&A session with a suggestion for communicating science information: They called attention to the need to make science accessible in a very human way. The public appreciates it more when they have some kind of connection to the science, Park said – a theme also echoed in the first panel.

In his concluding remarks, Gold made it clear that the forum identified the need for individuals who are trained in both journalism and science.

One thing is for sure: “If you lose the communications battle … game over,” Anderson said.

Pfizer, the University of Maryland, APHA and FasterCures are Research!America members.

Research Advocacy in the News

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

With federal funding much in the news as Congress debates spending priorities and deficit reduction, Research!America and our members and partners have also been in the news, speaking out about the economic impact of research and its importance to our nation’s health and competitiveness.

Research!America initiated the concept and worked with Richard Bridges, PhD, College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences, University of Montana, on an op-ed published today in the Helena Independent Record, yesterday in The Billings Gazette and last Thursday in the Missoulian, both located in the district of Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-At-Large-Montana), chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees HHS agencies. The full op-ed (“Invest in Montana research, continue to reap long-term benefits”) is available online at the links above. Among the points made in the op-ed:

While many Montanans benefit from and appreciate research discoveries, they may not be aware that these discoveries are made right in their own state. As the number and competitiveness of scientists in our universities, hospitals and research institutes have grown dramatically in the past several years, so too has our success in attracting NIH grants. Considering that about 60 to 70 percent of this funding typically supports salaries, it translates directly into jobs: skilled technical jobs, sustainable jobs and well-paying jobs. Indeed, a study by the Families USA Foundation revealed that in 2008, the $38 million awarded to Montana by NIH led to the creation of about 700 jobs. Further analysis by Research!America revealed these health research jobs in Montana had an average annual salary around $55,000. Excitingly, this successful trend is continuing, as 2010 saw further increases in both NIH and NSF awards made to Montana.

* * *
Our current times require that not just scientists speak up, but that all of us who see the long-term value of science voice a call to continue making our national investment in research a priority. Research is the key to Montana’s future.

Research!America’s chair, former Congressman John Edward Porter (R-IL), was cited in The Nation and by Bloomberg News for his leadership in doubling the National Institutes of Health budget in 1998, working with then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in the face of strong budget-cutting pressures. Porter also was interviewed by Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog in a Q&A, “How to protect research funding from the chopping block,” that was picked up by Stanford Medicine’s Scope blog.

Research!America’s President and CEO Mary Woolley was quoted in The Washington Post’s Federal Eye blog on proposed cuts to the National Science Foundation budget and in The Washington Times on the impact of research cuts to U.S. competitiveness. She authored a guest post on PhRMA’s Catalyst blog, noting steps advocates can take now to protect federal funding for medical and health research. For more ways to take action to protect research funding, visit www.researchamerica.org/advocacy or sign-up here for our advocacy alerts.

Research!America’s new Your Congress-Your Health poll data was cited in Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog and by wire services United Press International and Asian News International. See the full poll findings and urge your Member of Congress to respond to the Your Congress-Your Health questionnaire at www.yourcongressyourhealth.org.

Nature Medicine: ‘Cure Acceleration’ Funds Woven Into Health Reform Legislation

Friday, February 5th, 2010

An article by Meredith Wadman in the February 2010 issue of Nature Medicine explains an amendment to the health care reform bill inserted by Senator Arlen Specter which would create the Cures Acceleration Network (CAN). The network, managed by the National Institutes of Health director and “a board of 24 experts drawn from academia, venture capital firms, government agencies and disease advocacy groups,” would award grants to facilitate translational research. Research!America President Mary Woolley is quoted in the article:

The Specter proposal is being hailed by disease and research advocacy groups. Specter “once again has his finger on the pulse of public sentiment,” says Mary Woolley, the president of Research!America, an advocacy group based in Alexandria, Virginia. “The public wants more solutions and they want them faster. That’s exactly what this CAN amendment is poised to accomplish.”

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Nature Medicine: Flush With Funding, NIH Faces Challenges of Distribution

Friday, May 8th, 2009

The May issue of Nature Medicine includes an article on the grant-issuing process for funding provided for the National Institutes of Health in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, is quoted on the future funding outlook for science.

Organizations such as Research!America and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology are doing their best to ensure that doesn’t happen. They’ve already started lobbying for future increases in the NIH’s budget. Mary Woolley, president of Research!America, points out, however, that it would be unrealistic to expect a 15% bump like the one the NIH will have over the next two years as a result of the recovery act.

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Nature Medicine: U.S. Researchers Await Key Science Appointments by Next President

Monday, November 17th, 2008

The November 2008 issue of Nature Medicine includes an article by Amber Dance about the role of science in the next administration (subscription required). Dance quotes Mary Woolley on the prospect of a cabinet level science adviser.

One item likely to be high on the next president’s list is the task of choosing an OSTP director, also known as the president’s science adviser. Many hope that OSTP—which was forced out from its White House digs during the Bush administration—will regain office space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and have a closer link to the president. Some even dare to hope that the science adviser could become a cabinet-rank position. “It takes that pall of undervaluing science off the table,” says Mary Woolley, president of the nonprofit Research!America in Alexandria, Virginia.