weekly letter

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: Last week, the White House laid out its plan for all Cabinet departments to trim their proposed FY20 budgets by 5%. If, as anticipated, these cuts begin with the FY20 spending caps signed into law in 2011 (so-called ‘sequestration’), rather than actual FY19 budgets, the proposed cuts could be shockingly deep—in the 25% range. The potential impact on the NIH budget alone could be a cut of $9.77B, wiping out the increases of the last few years to the point of returning to 2013 funding levels and, when adjusting for inflation, 2001 spending power. Other agencies could take equivalent hits, compromising progress in achieving health goals and sending a clear message to...
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: Earlier today, Rob Smith and Kim Monk of Capital Alpha Partners, and Pete Kirkham of Red Maple Consulting joined Research!America alliance members to discuss the near and mid-term outlook for congressional action on drug pricing, the state of play on appropriations, and other research-relevant issues. Although our speakers noted that much can change in the final week before the election, there were several key takeaways. First, it’s safe to say that the uncertainties surrounding the election and the ongoing interest (both in Congress and the White House) in addressing rising healthcare costs means that drug pricing and issues related to the supply chain more...
Dear Research Advocate, Yesterday, the Senate passed a sweeping opioid package ( H.R. 6 ), previously passed by the House, and sent it to the President for his signature. It includes intensified research into new pain management therapies that factor importantly into a broad array of opioid response strategies. This can’t come too soon: according to a recent study from AHRQ, there were nearly 125,000 opioid-related hospitalizations among older Americans in 2015; more Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than the number of American lives lost -- 58,200 -- in the entirety of the Vietnam War. The opioid legislation is an excellent example of much needed bipartisanship; the FY19 Labor-H/...
Dear Research Advocate: I am especially pleased to report that the House passed the Labor-H/Defense FY19 appropriations conference report yesterday, by a vote of 361-61. The President has said he will sign the bill, thus avoiding a partial government shutdown with its myriad negative consequences (including the toll on medical and public health progress). Please do as we have and say thank you to Congressional leadership for passing this bill in timely fashion, with funding that supports putting research to work to find the solutions to what ails us. Of particular note, the bill includes a $2 billion increase for NIH, as well as increases for other federal health agencies under HHS auspices...
Dear Research Advocate: Big news: it appears a Labor-H/Defense appropriations “conference report” (i.e. final bill) will clear Congress and reach the President’s desk before the September 30 deadline. Earlier this week, we sent a letter urging conferees Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Tom Cole (R-OK), and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to push for the highest funding levels possible for NIH, CDC, AHRQ and CDMRP given the boundaries set by the House and Senate versions of the legislation. This just in: a summary of the conference report . A preliminary read (emphasis on “preliminary”) indicates that the conferees did indeed opt for favorable funding...
Dear Research Advocate: Research!America’s annual health research forum, “Straight Talk,” will kick off tomorrow, Thursday, September 6, at 10:15 AM EST at the Newseum in Washington, DC. I am sending this week’s letter a day early to ensure that you have the link to the livestream, since we are at full capacity in the room. Featuring HHS Secretary Alex Azar II and a host of other national leaders in the research and public health arenas, the goal of the forum is to foster candid discussion and seed new thinking around topics that are front and center in research and innovation. Be sure to listen in! The House returned from August recess yesterday and opted to “fast-track” the Labor-H/...
I valued the opportunity earlier this week to join the team from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science as they delivered their high quality program at Mississippi State University. Mr. Alda gave a typically inspirational and amusing keynote and also kicked off the interactive sessions the next morning. The Alda Method© team-teaches communication skills, drawing on working actors’ improvisational abilities coupled with the expertise of educators and researchers who regularly contribute to the academic literature, including the Oxford Handbook of The Science of Science Communication . As more academic institutions consider adding a communication and public engagement component to...

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