A weekly advocacy letter from Mary Woolley: Congress steps up for science

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

After years of attending to other priorities and taking an “on cruise-control” approach to science, Congress has turned the corner with enthusiasm and determination!  Clay Alspach and Tim Pataki from Energy and Commerce Chairman Upton’s staff joined Research!America members on Tuesday to discuss 21st Century Cures.  They asked us to help assure a robust and bipartisan list of cosponsors for the bill. Please take a moment to ask your representative to sign-on, or thank him or her for cosponsoring. Please also consider joining one, two or all three of these sign-on letters: UMR, Ad Hoc, NHC.

We have final figures for the joint online survey by The Science Advisory Board and Research!America I mentioned last week: two-thirds of life science researchers say they are following congressional activity on scientific funding, but only about one-third are familiar with the 21st Century Cures initiative.  More scientists should know that there is a rare opportunity right now to change the funding and policy landscape around health research.  Will you help raise awareness?  

Another development relevant to medical progress:  Senators Coons and Moran have announced a new bipartisan Senate Competitiveness Caucus. In an op-ed in yesterday’s Roll Call, the Senators note that America has reached a “competitive inflection point. We can either do more to nurture and take advantage of our strengths...or we can fall behind in the 21st century.”

And then there is the appropriations process, moving along in “regular order” for the first time in years. Both the House and Senate Labor-H Appropriations Committees are planning to markup their respective legislative drafts as soon as next week. We are advocating significant increases to ensure that NIH, CDC and AHRQ can fulfill their crucial missions.  This will be a heavy lift, so we all should be weighing in. Don’t feel greedy making more than one “ask” of your representatives -- all these things are related, and together they can dramatically advance medical progress and assure American competitiveness for generations to come. 

Despite the fact that social sciences research saves lives and tax dollars, it is under attack (again) in the House.  The most recent mistake was the passage of an appropriations measure that would cut deeply into the National Science Foundation (NSF) Social, Behavioral and Economic Research Directorate. We need to convince the Senate to fight for patients by fighting for social sciences research. Nobel Laureates across the sciences have spoken out in force; won’t you?  For more on the essential role this research plays, see John Sides’ blog in the Washington Post this week.

I hope you will join us next Monday, June 15 at noon for a webinar on communicating science. Frank Sesno, director of The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs and former CNN Washington Bureau chief will facilitate “Dealing with Doubt: Communicating the Complexities of Science to Non-Scientists,” a webinar that builds on our communicating science workshop held last April. This 30-minute webinar will allow you to explore how non-scientists view scientific consensus and better understand the nuances of science communication. It is interactive and free to Research!America members; please click here to register.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco