A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Science in (but mostly out) of the public eye

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Although we are 452 days away from Election Day 2016, with all the media attention right now one would be forgiven for thinking it is coming up next month! The overwhelming majority of scientists surveyed by the Science Advisory Board in advance of last Thursday’s debate said that science and research should be a topic of discussion. But as predicted by the same 90+ percent majority, science wasn’t even mentioned, underscoring the importance for scientists, patients, and all who care about research to engage candidates before the next debate. If you -- a potential voter -- don’t let candidates know you care about medical progress and science writ large, they will have no reason to address it. I encourage you to activate your networks, speak out on social media, submit op-eds and LTEs to local newspapers and reach out in person to candidates near you. A recent Newsweek article hits the nail on the head as to why the presidential candidates need to talk about science.
 
Presidential candidates may not yet be discussing science, but more and more members of Congress are doing so. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) are leading an information- gathering exercise about basic research supported by the NSF in preparation for a series of meetings and briefings related to NSF reauthorization. Research!America has submitted comments and you might want to do so, as well. Email sciencepolicy@commerce.senate.gov no later than Friday August 21.
 
One example of NSF’s basic research portfolio that is timely and exciting: yesterday, NSF announced their newest contribution to the BRAIN initiative: 16 new grants, totaling $13.1 million, to explore the implications of neuroengineering, brain inspired design, and individuality and variation. As the BRAIN initiative gains momentum, potential solutions to neurological and other brain-related conditions offer new hope to conditions such as depression, the prevalence of which is greater than the entire population of New England (Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island combined). You can read more about the social and economic burdens of depression, and ways scientists are combating the condition, in our newest fact sheet update.
 
We are less than a month away from our annual National Health Research Forum. I hope your schedule permits you to join us on September 10. The event, which consists of three moderated panels and lunch, will feature a timely discussion on challenges facing research, public health, and regulatory science. How far have we come and how much farther do we have to go in our determination to serve the public’s interest and bring all the elements of our research ecosystem into the 21st century? Please register here -- the event is free for Research!America alliance members and $125 for non-members.
 

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