Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter

Dear Research Advocate, “Not only is it important to ask questions and find the answers, as a scientist I felt obligated to communicate with the world what we were learning.” Stephen Hawking This apt quotation serves as the preface to a newly released survey from ScienceCounts and the Alan Alda Foundation for Communicating Science. Their findings, coupled with those reported a few weeks ago by SigmaXi and Research!America, signal recognition that if science is to thrive, scientists themselves must help make the case. Both surveys indicate that scientists are very willing to become engaged -- more so than ever before, in my experience! This week, members of Congress are back home, but not...
Dear Research Advocate, At our recent jam-packed Alliance Member Meeting we heard from Grace Graham, Health Policy Director for Senate HELP Committee Chairman Alexander (R-TN), and Andi Fristedt, Deputy Health Policy Director for Ranking Member Murray (D-WA). Grace and Andi encouraged input on bipartisan draft legislation that covers a range of healthcare and public health issues, including increasing efficiency and reducing costs, confronting rising maternal mortality rates, and addressing vaccine hesitancy. The authors of the bill are taking comments until June 5. Experts joined us at the University of San Francisco’s Mission Bay Campus for a spirited evening of conversation about the use...
Dear Research Advocate, Today, the House Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee released its Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, which they will consider tomorrow. The good news is that the bill contains the largest increase in funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in several years; the bad news is we can’t get there from here unless we #RaisetheCaps. On that subject, President Trump and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have met to discuss the importance of a caps deal; according to news reports , the President was receptive. It is critical for stakeholders to reinforce the need for a deal now, while both the President and Congress are focused on it. If...
Dear Research Advocate, Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies funding bill. While there is great news in the bill, it must be considered in the grim context of the across the board cuts that will happen if Congress does not act to raise the budget caps. Our statement addresses both the good and bad news. The bill, which Congressional leadership is expected to bring to the House floor in June, includes more than $8.25 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over $41 billion for the National Institutes of Health, and $358 million for the Agency for Healthcare Research and...
Dear Research Advocate: Yesterday was the first day of spring and with it comes the hustle and bustle of appropriations season. Rumor has it House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) plans to begin marking up fiscal year (FY) 2020 legislation as soon as late April with a Defense/Labor-HHS mini package among the first bills. It is therefore urgent we make the case now, with one voice, for strong FY20 research funding. Deadlines are close: Members of Congress must submit their individual requests to the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-H) Subcommittee by March 28, the Agriculture, FDA Subcommittee by April 4, and to the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS)...
Dear Research Advocate: Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, gave his first public address at the AAAS Annual Meeting last Friday. He discussed the importance of taking stock of the entire research and development enterprise, in order to provide a clear picture of U.S. capabilities in a global context that features other nations “nipping at our heels,” and then, drawing on this assessment — as well as the enduring values of our nation — to plan for the future in ways we haven’t seen since the Vannevar Bush report, The Endless Frontier , appeared after WWII. Droegemeier also emphasized the importance of strengthening partnerships...
Dear Research Advocate: As you know, there has been a cease fire in the shutdown and people are back to work, at least for now. Over the next two weeks, members of Congress will attempt to resolve the stalemate over funding for the President’s border wall, packaging it with the seven remaining FY 2019 spending bills, which include funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). I am feeling optimistic about a deal being struck, not least because Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, are leading the congressional...
Dear Research Advocate: The government remains in a partial shutdown that began on December 22, taking a mounting toll on 800,000 federal workers, including those at FDA and NSF. The Alliance for a Stronger FDA has put together a “ Shutdown Toolkit ” detailing how this ongoing impasse is affecting us all. In a similar vein, the Coalition for National Science Funding has been sharing stories on social media that focus on how the shutdown is impacting NSF-funded research and programs, stifling discovery and sending a message of ‘no public confidence’ to aspiring young scientists. Clearly, the effects of the shutdown on research are multiple, disruptive and counterproductive. This New York...
Dear Research Advocate: In welcome news, last night the (departing) 115th Senate voted to confirm Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Research!America sent a thank you note acknowledging the roles Senate Commerce Committee leaders John Thune (R-SD) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) played in advancing the nomination. This confirmation is a great beginning for the new year – and the most recent evidence that advocacy works! Tomorrow marks Research!America’s 30th anniversary. There is no question that over three decades, the medical and health research advocacy community has become more organized and more effective. While our community...
Dear Research Advocate: Today, our nation and world lost a research leader whose vision, commitment and compassion have catalyzed progress against a host of insidious health threats. Dr. Stephen Katz , the director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, died suddenly and unexpectedly this morning. We have been blessed by you and your service, and will miss you, Steve. The Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) last night to flat-fund seven fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills at 2018 levels until February 8, 2019. (Recall that the federal fiscal year began on October 1, so this is not a minor delay.) It was fully expected that the House would pass...

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Funding research gives all of us a better chance of living a healthier life.
Pam Hirata, heart disease survivor