Mary Woolley's weekly Letter

President Biden is expected to release his first set of spending requests for FY22 on Friday, enabling Congress to begin consideration of the budget for the new fiscal year.

The Biden Administration has released “The American Jobs Plan.” The plan encompasses major investments in R&D, transportation, broadband, clean drinking water, manufacturing, and several other areas.

This letter marks #500 since I began this weekly conversation with you. In the first letter, I spoke out against the Budget Control Act and the severe funding caps it would (and did) impose on strategic imperatives like research. You joined with us to help secure modifications to those budget caps to enable funding increases for NIH and other research agencies. Advocacy works.

The Senate HELP Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee held hearings this week to review the Biden Administration’s pandemic response and ongoing COVID-19 vaccine distribution with CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, NIH NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, HHS Chief Scientific Officer for the COVID Response Dr. David Kessler, and FDA CBER Director Dr. Peter Marks. 

Dear Research Advocate,

March is Women’s History Month. The impact of COVID-19 on the careers of women in STEMM is the focus of a report to be released by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on March 9, 2021. How did the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt the careers of women in academic STEMM during 2020 and how might these disruptions—both positive and negative—shape future progress for women in academic STEMM? The public is invited to a discussion with NASEM committee members Eve J. Higginbotham, University of Pennsylvania; Reshma Jagsi, University of Michigan; and Erick C. Jones, University of Texas at Arlington

Dear Research Advocate,

Perseverance and resilience anchor us as we navigate this pandemic. The recent landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars exemplifies the tenacity and commitment underlying breakthrough discoveries in science and technology.

Regrettably, there are no dollars to fill COVID-19 engendered research gaps — meaning all the many research programs put on hold or even shelved as the pandemic consumes attention — in the $1.9T relief package the House will vote on next week. That’s why we must all advocate for inclusion in the next supplemental, which is in the works. So much is at stake — answers for patients and the ability of researchers to generate those answers. 

A new survey commissioned by Research!America affirms Americans’ support for investing in research as a top priority for the new Congress and Administration. Four of five express strong support for the value of both public and private sector research and innovation, and the percentage of Americans indicating support for basic research “even if it brings no immediate benefits” grew from 77% in August 2020 to 85% in January 2021, with three of four now favoring doubling federal spending on medical research.

In celebrating Black History Month, we acknowledge and honor the generations of African Americans who have significantly contributed to our nation’s history. Many resilient, unsung heroes have helped enact critical change in the areas of science policy and research advocacy. In collaboration with the National Science Policy Network, Research!America has curated a collection of videos that recognize #BlackInSciPol professionals. Learn more about these scientists in the vanguard of their fields, both past and present, by following #BlackInSciPolWeek on Twitter.

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