Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Aftershock

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Leadership Required: For so many of us, the events of the last 24 hours are difficult to fully comprehend. Our nation has experienced a profound shock to our democracy.

The tragic overlay to this tumultuous time is that our nation faces an enemy that thrives on the very distrust, turmoil, and political gridlock we have been witnessing. COVID-19 has now killed more than 360,000 Americans — more lives lost in just ten months than the entire population of 99.7% of the cities and towns in this nation. In addition to assuring the peaceful transition of power to a new Administration, federal, state, and local lawmakers, and leaders from all sectors, can —  and they must — join forces to save as many lives as possible.

The Science and Technology Imperative: Your expertise, your advocacy, and your partnership can lend crucial momentum to another ‘must’: science and technology strength must occupy a top spot among U.S.strategic priorities.    

On Tuesday, we sent a letter to President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris urging them to “boldly strengthen and mobilize our nation’s public and private science and technology enterprise.” With science and technology underpinning the nation’s priorities, we can preempt and turn back future pandemics; we can turbocharge job creation; we can achieve economic growth for Americans for years to come; and we can save patients’ lives and lessen their suffering.

Many of our partners have also delivered important, actionable recommendations to the incoming Administration. The Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) has developed a particularly compelling set of recommendations. These suggestions, rich in behavioral and data science, are crucial in righting the damage that the pandemic has wrought and critical for maximizing the continued expansion and application of our nation’s wellspring of knowledge and innovation.

Strong Out of the Gate: We’ve doubled down on key alliance member meetings next week: on Monday, January 11, 2021, at 2 p.m. ET, Dr. Larry Tabak, the principal deputy director of NIH will return to discuss and answer your questions about the NIH grant landscape. Members register here.  

On Thursday, January 14, 2020, at 2 p.m. ET, Research!America Board member Dr. Georges Benjamin, the Executive Director of the American Public Health Association and a central figure in COVID-19 response will join alliance members to address the questions the evolving pandemic continues to evoke — from vaccine access to confronting more easily transmissible mutations of the virus. Register here.

Making Clinical Trials More Accessible: The COVID relief package signed into law just a week ago includes a welcome directive for expansion of clinical trial participation: by 2022, all state Medicaid programs must reimburse routine healthcare expenses associated with clinical trials. Another notable development: the Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act (H.R.1966), legislation initiated by the late Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and pushed forward by the successor to his seat, Representative Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), was signed into law this week. H.R.1966 takes steps to overcome barriers to cancer clinical trial participation for underrepresented populations.

Together, We Advocate for Science: As we reflect on 2020, we recognize that effective advocacy is community-driven, as are our advocacy successes. Here is a brief recap that focuses on resources we developed last year. Please continue to draw on them and let us know of additional information that would be helpful.

Vaccine Rollout: If you missed the webinar this week from the Kavli Foundation-funded Society Civic Science Initiative and the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida, the recording is here. Experts in science communications detailed key points from the Guide to COVID-19 Vaccine Communications to ensure vaccine confidence. (E.g., Are you speaking with someone whose mindset is more collectivist or individualistic? Your message may not resonate if it fails to take this into account.) Research!America has developed a state-by-state resource on distribution plans. Please watch, read, and share these resources. Let’s face it: vaccine distribution has been rocky. You and I can help maximize take-up rates. 

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.  

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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Without research, there is no hope.
The Honorable Paul G. Rogers