Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: Votes and other Congressional activities were suspended this week to mourn the passing of our nation’s 41st President, George H.W. Bush. To prevent a government shutdown and provide more time to resolve disagreement around border wall funding, Congress agreed to another continuing resolution (CR) – now awaiting the President’s signature – to extend flat-funding for all remaining federal departments and agencies, including FDA and NSF, until December 21. This end-of-year CR scenario is all too familiar to advocates, and we must all stay the course to secure passage this year. Yesterday, Research!America and the Alliance for Aging Research sent a joint letter to...
Dear Research Advocate: This week has been rife with chilling public health news. You may have seen the widely-covered announcement that life expectancy in the United States has once again dropped, driven for a third year in a row by opioid (including fentanyl) abuse, a surge in suicide, especially in rural areas, and a spike in flu deaths. A sustained decline in life expectancy has not been seen in the U.S. for a century, since the devastation of World War I and the Pandemic flu of 1918. Read the full story . Also in the news are climate reports pointing to interconnected global health risks that are not going to go away on their own. Research and innovation are essential to ensuring our...
Dear Research Advocate: Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting with and addressing faculty and students at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences and at Rutgers University. During both trips, it was truly energizing to witness the enthusiasm, and sense of accountability, more and more scientists (on every rung of the career ladder) have for influencing the direction of federal research funding and policy. I hope my presentations reinforced and bolstered those terrific instincts...at least that was the goal! As always, I learned easily as much as I shared, including being introduced to an innovative science communication course Rutgers has shaped for doctoral students...
Dear Research Advocate: At our post-election briefing this morning at AAAS in Washington, DC, the discussion focused on opportunities for advocacy given the composition and characteristics of the new Congress, and the importance of building new champions from among the nearly 100 new members of Congress. Of note — at last count, there are seven science-trained new members, a very welcome development! There is no doubt that a divided Congress can cause gridlock, but inaction is not a foregone conclusion, as was emphasized by our Chair, the Hon. Michael N. Castle. There are important, science-relevant issues, such as infrastructure, STEM education, and the opioid crisis, that both parties...
Dear Research Advocate: After Tuesday’s election, we may or may not know the exact composition of the 116th Congress, as there are likely to be some very, very close races. But there is little doubt that the picture will be clearer than it is now when it comes to the policy dynamics next year -- and that is what our post-election briefing on Thursday, November 8 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. EST at AAAS (1200 New York Ave, NW in Washington, DC) is all about. Register now! If history is any guide, the magnitude of change in Congress will affect the prospects for completing unfinished business during the lame-duck session of Congress; not surprisingly, the more turnover, the harder it is to build...
Dear Research Advocate: News broke this week that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is struggling with a still-rising death toll due to Ebola, claiming more than 139 lives since July and spreading beyond the DRC. Meanwhile in the U.S., public health experts are working day and night to understand and overcome acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), now affecting children in 22 or more states. Ebola and AFM are public health crises today. It is predictable that there will be more unexpected crises on top of ongoing threats like the opioid epidemic, the increasing prevalence of obesity, chronic diseases and more. Which is why it defies common sense that investment in global health and in our...
Dear Research Advocate: In welcome news, Congress is making progress on FY19 appropriations. The Senate Appropriations Committee has completed work on all 12 bills and Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said that the full Senate may consider a package containing the Defense and Labor-HHS bills during the week of July 23rd. We can’t count our chickens before they hatch, but this is good news indeed, considering the Senate has not passed the LHHS bill before fiscal year-end since 2007. Yesterday, the full House Appropriations Committee passed their version of the Labor-HHS spending bill, which includes $38.3 billion for NIH, an additional $1.25 billion over the FY18 level, an additional $427M...
Dear Research Advocate: Out this week: new survey data from the Pew Research Center reaffirming that Americans are strongly supportive of federal investments in medical, engineering and basic science research, with overall agreement at the 80% level that these investments ‘pay off.’ Of concern, however, is that voters who identify as strongly conservative are significantly more likely to say that “private investment will ensure that enough scientific progress is made, even without government investment.” All of us in the stakeholder community have more work to do to convey that when the government supports research, all parties -- private sector, government and the public -- stand to...
Dear Research Advocate: I moderated a session at the always-compelling Aspen Institute’s Spotlight Health conference at the end of last week. We had a robust and “un-sugarcoated” discussion on the dual imperatives of affordability and fast-paced medical progress. Among the many terrific conference sessions were two featuring the newly announced CEO of the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-Morgan Stanley initiative, Dr. Atul Gawande. (I should add that he mentioned that they will arrive at a better name!) During his interview with PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, Dr. Gawande, whom I am proud to say was our Isadore Rosenfeld Advocacy Awardee this past March, made the point that not being thoughtful...
Dear Research Advocate: Advocacy works! The Senate narrowly voted down (48-50) advancing the president’s rescissions package to the Senate floor, this preserving $800 million that otherwise would have been stripped from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). A special thanks to the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation (NEHI) and to other terrific advocates who helped make the case against the CMMI cut. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $8.1 billion for FY19 National Science Foundation funding, a 3.9% increase over FY18. While this number is slightly below the House-approved $8.175 billion, given that the overall increase to non-defense discretionary (...

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Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.
Abraham Lincoln