A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Serious business

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

The Nobel prize winners announced this week showcase the role of both private sector (William Campbell’s work at Merck) and federal funding (Paul Modrich’s and Aziz Sancar's NIH and NSF grants) in driving scientific progress, and more broadly, the profound return science delivers to our nation and the world.  Read our statements on the winners.

The next few weeks are crucial for science funding and policies. Congressional leadership is working with the President to arrive at a budget deal that lifts the sequester caps, allowing for increases in NIH and other research agencies. If a deal lifting the caps is not made before Speaker Boehner retires, the new speaker (itself a role suddenly very much in play!) will likely have to contend with a right wing more determined to flex its muscle and less willing to negotiate a new budget. The stakes are high. Tell your members of Congress why a budget deal matters.

Many thanks to the more than 100 Research!America members who joined in person or by phone yesterday in a discussion with Senate HELP Committee staffers Laura Pence and Andi Fristedt, who fielded questions about the Senate companion to the House 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6).  A draft is expected this fall with a markup scheduled before year-end. Laura and Andi stressed the importance of feedback, and emphasized that the more concrete and “fully formed” the recommendations, the better.  Weigh in now or when the discussion draft is released.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced a “minibus” appropriations bill on Tuesday that packages together several spending bills, including “Labor-H.” This legislation would increase funding for NIH by $2 billion, but cut funding for CDC by 3.5 percent and AHRQ by 35 percent. While the bill is expected to fail, advocates nonetheless must speak out for agencies that need more resources, not fewer, to fulfill their respective missions.  Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee will be particularly influential in determining the fate of this legislation. Here is a link to their Twitter accounts, along with suggested tweets. Take a moment to make the case for CDC and AHRQ!

Another mass shooting has left our nation reeling. Now is the time to make long-overdue changes in public policy, including ending the ban on gun violence research. The author of the legislation that established that ban twenty years ago has repeatedly stated that he regrets doing so, and he spoke out again this week.  Columnist Nicholas Kristof said: “What we need is an evidence-based public health approach — the same model we used to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us, from swimming pools to cigarettes. ” More here.

A related topic involves the way in which our nation acts -- or doesn’t -- to address mental illness.  Former Research!America Board Member and U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy calls on 2016 presidential candidates to talk about how they will make meaningful progress against mental illness in an op-ed in USA Today this week. Kennedy speaks not only from personal experience, but also as a leader dedicated to putting research to work to help us better understand these daunting health challenges.  Several current members of Congress are speaking out as well, notably Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) and Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Watch this space…

Research!America and ScienceDebate.org today released a timely public opinion poll. Americans say the presidential and congressional candidates in 2016 should be talking about science. In fact, 87 percent of Americans say candidates should have a basic understanding of the science informing public policy issues. And they say presidential candidates should debate key science- based challenges facing the U.S., including  healthcare, climate change, energy, education, innovation, and the economy. This is the time to drop a line or send a tweet to the Democratic candidates who will debate next Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley
 

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana