A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Raise the caps, raise awareness, raise your voice

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

Yesterday, a high energy discussion on Advocating for Basic Science in a Disease-Focused World at the Society for Neuroscience conference once again revealed the strong appetite for advocacy among scientists, and young scientists in particular. The audience resonated with my point that “you can’t outsource advocacy,” and many were inspired to tweet on the spot. 

In case you doubt the impact of scientists engaging in advocacy, consider this: Research!America’s Board Chair, former Congressman (R-DE) and Governor Mike Castle, was recently interviewed by the Society for Neuroscience: “Scientists deepened my understanding of the promise of embryonic stem cell research during a time when there was huge opposition in Congress and the White House for federal support of such research. This interaction led to the development of bipartisan legislation introduced by me and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) in 2005 that expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.”   

To drive more bipartisan support for science, and in the process give scientists and friends of science a way to engage in timely advocacy, Research!America and many partners across the broad science community teamed up on a joint print and digital ad campaign to urge Congress to pass a deal that raises the budget caps. The ads were published this week in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, The Weekly Standard, Politico, and other media outlets. The ads make science much more visible and top of mind as congress weighs key public priorities.

Complementing the #RaisetheCaps ad campaign is a letter making the case for a budget deal from the leaders of science-focused organizations to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his counterparts in congressional leadership. The campaign may be getting the attention of decision-makers: according to an article in The Hill today, there is growing support for a two-year budget deal to raise the caps!  Research!America has also made the case in an op-ed in the Huffington Post and an LTE in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; and our partners are active on social media. There is so much power in numbers -- please do your part by taking action now.

Today, the House passed its tax package largely along party lines (227-205); the plan is for the Senate Finance Committee’s tax package to be on floor after Thanksgiving. Research!America signed on to a letter led by AAAS expressing our concern about provisions in the House bill that would have a negative impact on academic researchers, and by extension, on science and all of us. Earlier today, Research!America held a special alliance members meeting with tax experts Robert Bradner, Nicole Elliott and Kathleen Nilles from Holland & Knight to discuss the House and Senate bills and their possible impact on many aspects of R&D. We’ll send a recap shortly!

Tax reform will surely impact future R&D investments. Where those investments stand now, and insights on trends, are addressed in our just-released annual Investment Report. Despite an uptick across sectors, investments in research have been essentially stagnant when viewed as a percentage of total U.S. health spending. Medical and health R&D accounts for less than 5 cents of each health dollar. If we expect to make progress in finding solutions to a growing list of challenges to health and our economy, we have to do better than that. Read more in the new report.
 
We hosted a stellar briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday, showcasing the power of a well-functioning research continuum working to address Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and underscoring that this high burden, high cost illness simply does not receive the attention it deserves and requires. The briefing was followed by an opportunity for the audience to engage in an exercise (literally) that imparts a sense of what it is like to live with COPD. It proved a powerful awareness and advocacy tool.

Another health threat that receives less attention than it calls for is antibiotic resistance. The White House has announced a renewed commitment to implementing the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. We will soon release (and will share here) a factsheet on this challenge, which poses a significant threat to our children and future generations. 

Please join us on social media for Public Health Thank You Day (PHTYD) this coming Monday, November 20th. The outpouring of enthusiasm we’ve witnessed in the four week run up is a preview to what we anticipate on PHTYD: thousands of kudos delivered to the men and women who underpin our nation’s health security.  The bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Public Health Caucus, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rob Wittman (R-VA), Kay Granger (R-TX), Gene Green (D-TX), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), have introduced a PHTYD resolution. Please urge your Representatives to cosponsor by contacting Rep. McGovern’s office at: mike.cusher@mail.house.gov.

Sincerely,
 
Mary Woolley

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Funding research gives all of us a better chance of living a healthier life.
Pam Hirata, heart disease survivor