A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Talking up research in Louisiana, Florida and Michigan

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

This week I had the pleasure of participating in a research “summit” hosted by Louisiana State University (LSU), Research!America, and our honorary host, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA). I moderated a powerhouse panel featuring NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., NSF Director France Cordova, Ph.D., and FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Director Janet Woodcock, M.D., each of whom offered state-specific illustrations of the impact federally-funded Louisiana research has had to date, and signalled the many opportunities Louisiana has to do more. This standing-room-only, high-content gathering drew research, academic, business and philanthropic leaders from across the state. Their shared commitment to doing what it takes to assure that Louisiana realizes the state's full research and innovation potential was palpable. Check out our blog post for more on the summit.

LSU President F. King Alexander and I took to the airwaves to discuss how research can improve Louisiana’s health and economic stability. To provide a public context for the Louisiana event, Research!America released our newest state specific survey data, which found that almost 90% of Louisianans say it is important for the state to be a leader in medical and health research. President Alexander was understandably thrilled to talk about the Nobel-worthy achievement of LSU scientists announced last week, detecting spacetime gravitational waves to support Einstein’s theory of general relativity. NSF Director Dr. Cordova, who added a side trip while in New Orleans to congratulate LIGO researchers in person, remarked while at the summit that NSF has funded this world-class basic research for 40 years. 

Before traveling to Louisiana to participate in the Summit, Dr. Collins sat down for an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He discussed the exciting possibilities resulting from this year’s NIH budget, which received its largest increase in a decade with the passage of the omnibus at the end of last year, calling it a “beacon of hope” for young researchers. Dr. Collins said the funding increase “signals that our nation has turned the corner and is now prepared to support a vision in which America truly values biomedical research and treasures its status as the world’s biomedical leader.”

Research!America is committed to assuring we complete that turn in the year ahead, urging elected representatives to rebuild NIH and other research agencies following years on a starvation diet. As Dr. Collins emphasized in Louisiana, and previously at last week’s National Health Council annual CEO gathering in Florida, we lend credence to the research enterprise when we speak out about the difference research is making for our nation. Read our letters to the House and Senate “Labor-H” Subcommittees requesting robust funding in FY17, and please take a moment to email your representative and Senators encouraging them to include research agencies prominently in their appropriations requests. It only takes a minute!

Leaders from two of our member organizations, Texas A&M and Baylor University, collaborated this week on an op-ed, calling on Congress to provide increased funding for university-conducted research. Another influential op-ed, penned by a bipartisan team of Michigan Representatives, Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), stresses the importance of dissolving party lines in the interest of patients. Op-eds are a fantastic way to for advocates to make the case for research. If you are interested in writing an op-ed, we can help! Email me or Suzanne Ffolkes, sffolkes@researchamerica.org.

Also in Michigan this week, Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich held a town hall, where he told the audience, “we need medical research,” and that he would place a high priority on increasing research dollars for institutions like the NIH. Later, at an event geared towards veterans, Kasich spoke about increasing funding for research into mental health. These are exactly the type of comments Campaign for Cures strives to elicit from candidates running for office. If we want the next President and Congress to champion faster medical progress, raising the volume now simply makes sense. Follow the Campaign on our Twitter and Facebook pages, and contact Thayer Surette at tsurette@researchamerica.org to partner with us!

Lastly- don’t forget to register for Research!America’s Annual Members Meeting and the Advocacy Awards Dinner. Both events will be held on March 16 in Washington, D.C. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

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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