A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Celebrating advocates; inspiring more

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

At Research!America’s annual meeting yesterday Alex Silver, co-founder and CEO of the Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Partnership (EBRP), a member of Research!America, made a strong case for venture philanthropy as a common-sense approach to investing in research, particularly as it applies to rare diseases. He challenged us to think in new ways about nonprofit organizations, ways that reinforce both partnership and innovation. Patients like his 7-year-old son Jackson, for whom every day is a painful challenge, are waiting. (For more on spending on research as an investment vs. spending for consumption, see Norm Augustine’s timely essay.)

Also at the annual meeting, we heard from Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08), ranking member of the Budget Committee, that the Republican budget will be taken up next week in the House. Mr. Van Hollen and his democratic colleagues expect to put forward an alternate proposal mirroring the President’s budget, released last month. A key question is whether the majority will call for more defense funding, and if so, how they would try to accomplish that. If they lift both the defense and non-defense budget caps, more dollars will be available for priorities like NIH, FDA, CDC and AHRQ. If they choose to reduce non-defense spending in order to increase defense spending without “busting” the overall Budget Control Act/sequestration spending limit, that decision could well leave key priorities with even less funding than they received in FY16. A huge strategic mistake, but then, so was (and is) sequestration itself. Bad outcomes in appropriations cycles have become more the norm than the exception in recent years, but this one could be different. You can help. All members of Congress are given the opportunity to submit their spending priorities to appropriators. Research!America wrote to members of Congress last week urging them to include robust funding for research in their spending requests. We urge you to do the same.

At our annual meeting and in his remarks at our awards event last evening, the Hon. John Porter, Chair of the Research!America Board, expressed his optimism that a new day for research may indeed be dawning in the Congress and across the nation - new momentum for science can be seen in a number of cities, and a host of new legislation is moving through the Congress. Funding does remain a significant challenge. Chairman Porter also discussed the importance of the Blue Ribbon Commission mandated by the Crominbus legislation, and a complementary initiative by Research!America to start a game-changing conversation with the American public about where science “fits” in America’s path forward.
 
Our 19th annual awards dinner showcased the commitment and impact of remarkable champions for science and medical progress before an appreciative audience of over 450 guests. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO-01); Robin Roberts, Mike Milken, Dr. Kenneth Olden, David Van Andel, Dr. George Vande Woude and the Society for Neuroscience were honored not only for what they have accomplished, sometimes against formidable odds, but also for their ongoing commitment to research and to advocacy for research. All of us draw from their strength. Click here to view photos from the dinner and check our website for videos and text in the next few days. This is just one good reason to check out our terrific new website, launched in time for our annual events:  www.researchamerica.org.

Cultivating public awareness and support for research begins with a conversation. A unique opportunity in this regard will be with us on Saturday. “Pi Day” as it is called, occurs when the abbreviated date (3/14/15) will match the beginning digits of the mathematical constant Pi (3.1415). A great launching platform to talk about the value of STEM education!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter