A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: We cannot cap innovation

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
Advocacy works. More members of Congress are speaking out in support of research, including at a Senate Labor-H Appropriations Subcommittee hearing featuring testimony from NIH Director Francis Collins and several NIH Institute Directors. Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) summed up the limitations created by the sequestration caps succinctly: “We cannot cap innovation, we cannot cap breakthroughs.” Labor-H Subcommittee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) underscored the point that both the subcommittee and full appropriations committee support biomedical research as a high priority. 

The subcommittee’s Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke of the importance of including mandatory funding for NIH and FDA in the “Innovation” bill winding its way through the Senate HELP Committee, on which she also serves. Senator Murray’s remarks were heartening, given the challenge of securing on-the-record support for this funding. Please help assure passage of legislation in the Senate that, like the House 21st Century Cures Act (HR 6), will enhance the discovery, development and delivery of medical advances by boosting funding for NIH and FDA. Email your Senators here, using sample text or modifying ours. It only takes a couple of minutes!

We are also working to drive discussion of science during the election season. Governor Bush has released a health reform plan with surprisingly granular proposals for FDA, health IT, and NIH policy changes, along with a call for increased funding to support basic science. Unfortunately, Governor Bush goes down the well-worn, but not well-justified, path of lampooning some NIH-funded studies. It is nonetheless meaningful that he assigns medical progress a high priority.

During Tuesday’s presidential debate, Secretary Clinton briefly asserted the importance of “once again investing in science,” but the topic was not otherwise taken up. There will be many more debates; it’s within our reach as a community of stakeholders to increase the salience of our issues for the candidates. All of which is to say, I’m asking you to partner with us on our voter education initiative, Campaign for Cures. Together, we can leverage the current attention being paid to speeding medical progress into a higher ranking for science and innovation among American priorities. Email Ted Brasfield at tbrasfield@researchamerica.org or visit our website for more information.

In a USA Today LTE published today, I expand on an affecting editorial by Patrick Kennedy (highlighted here last week), emphasizing that the majority of Americans want increased public investment in medical and health research, including mental health research.  And speaking of public sentiment, Jeffrey Kluger’s commentary in Time magazine keyed off the joint poll we commissioned with ScienceDebate.
 
Echoing the sentiments of other poll data showing that 84% of Americans say researchers should engage more with the public, Janet Napolitano calls on researchers to engage.  In her op-ed, the former Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security and current President of the University of California system writes: “I believe it is now incumbent on the academic community to ensure that the work and voices of researchers are front and center in the public square. When the voices of scientists are not heard in the dialogue, there is a price to pay.” Time to speak out; don’t wait to be asked!  

Be sure to save the date for a new webinar on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), November 10th from 1:00 to 1:30 pm EST. President and CEO of AcademyHealth Dr. Lisa Simpson will interview AHRQ director Dr. Richard Kronick. Health Affairs’ latest blog post will help you get a jump on the vital role AHRQ plays in our healthcare system.  
 

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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