Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Big Plans

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Biden Administration Plan: The Biden Administration has released “The American Jobs Plan.” The plan encompasses major investments in R&D, transportation, broadband, clean drinking water, manufacturing, and several other areas. It calls for $180 billion for “R&D and the technologies of the future.” The NSF would receive $50 billion, a portion of which would be for the creation of a technology directorate. The proposal also calls for $30 billion to improve our nation’s pandemic preparedness, including a buildout for BARDA. Research!America issued a statement on the plan.

Endless Frontier: The NSF technology directorate included in The American Jobs Plan is similar to a provision in the Endless Frontier Act (EFA), introduced last year by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN) and which is being readied for re-introduction soon. Earlier today, we spoke with David Goldston, Director of MIT’s Washington Office during our alliance member meeting. MIT’s expertise has been tapped to provide input into the Schumer-Young bill. Goldston stated that NSF’s important role as a “broad base and a focal point” for basic research would not be changed. He noted that the EFA will fund technological advances and community research efforts. View the recording here

The House Science Committee is also proposing to strengthen NSF’s role in technology through the recently introduced bipartisan NSF for the Future Act (H.R.2225). In addition to establishing a new directorate for science and engineering solutions, it includes a recommendation that Congress double the agency’s budget over the next five years. 

“We Have Been Living Off of Past Investments in Science and Technology” said Norman Augustine, retired CEO and chairman of Lockheed Martin, during Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy webinar, “America at a Tipping Point: Science and Technology Opportunities for the Biden Administration.” Augustine and John Hennessy, chairman of the board of directors of Alphabet Inc., discussed the Institute’s report issued jointly with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It highlights the importance of science and technology (S&T) as an economic driver in the U.S. and underscores the need to cultivate a STEM workforce to firmly regain our globally competitive position. The report also calls for a two-year federal funding cycle and a capital budget. Click here to watch the webinar.  

We can expect additional insightful comments on the future of U.S. S&T investment next Monday when Dr. Sudip Parikh, AAAS CEO and Research!America Board Member, speaks at the National Press Club. You can join the event and ask questions here

Countering Vaccine Hesitancy: Black members of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) released a powerful video this week urging Black Americans to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them. The scientists, doctors, nurses, public health experts, and other health professionals tell viewers that they have reviewed the research and have confidence in the vaccines. Please share far and wide. 

In Case You Missed It: Dr. Mike Stebbins, President of Science Advisors and former Assistant Director for Biotechnology at OSTP, joined us last week to discuss the HARPA (also referred to as ARPA-H) proposal, further exploring the concept, including controversial aspects such as the possibility that basic research funding would be supplanted if it were to become a part of NIH (Stebbins said that would not be the case). Watch a recording of the discussion here.

Dr. Shannon Zenk, Director of the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), also spoke with us during today’s alliance member meeting. Dr. Zenk gave members an insider perspective into the role of nursing research during this pandemic. She noted that nursing’s holistic approach makes it well suited to undertake research to address health disparities and other societal health challenges. View the discussion here.

Upcoming Alliance Member Meeting: On Tuesday, April 6 at 2 p.m. ET Alex Keenan, majority Staff Director for the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, will join us for an off-the-record conversation on FY22 appropriations, the President’s soon-to-be released budget proposal, and the Chair's priorities for the Subcommittee. Register here.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.  

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco