Mary Woolley

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 (...
Dear Research Advocate: The House Appropriations Committee released its FY19 Labor-HHS funding bill earlier today for subcommittee markup tomorrow morning . A few notes on the bill: NIH received $38.3 billion -- an additional $1.25 billion over the FY18 level -- and AHRQ received $334 million -- the same funding level as FY18. After accounting for anticipated, one-time changes to the total (including the transfer of the strategic national stockpile to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness), CDC received a $427 million funding increase. Given that the highly constrained dollars the “Labor-H” Subcommittee had to work with, the NIH, AHRQ and CDC results are definitely a...
Dear Research Advocate: The last few days have been wholly energizing. Yesterday, at the annual BIO International Convention, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion titled “Science Needs Champions: Creating Collective Action to Advance Biotech Innovations for Humanity.” It wasn’t a “happy talk” session; the participants had no interest in candy-coating the challenges entailed in promoting faster progress while fostering the access and affordability needed to secure the highest return on that innovation. The discussion reinforced that there are no easy answers. Policymakers and the health care ecosystem, very much including the science community, need to work together,...
Dear Research Advocate: As of today, with eight months of the federal 2018 fiscal year elapsed, funding uncertainty persists for several programs. Given the recent Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the spread of measles closer to home, it is counterproductive in the extreme to cut federal support to combat disease outbreaks, yet that is included in the administration’s rescissions package and in a recently proposed Senate version as well. The clock for congressional action on rescissions will run out on June 22. That’s why it is timely to take a moment to (1) contact your congressional delegation urging no rescissions, and (2) reach out to those who may be...

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