Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Could this be a summer of progress?

Mike Coburn

Dear Research Advocate,

For the remainder of the summer, we will have a series of guest authors writing Mary’s Weekly Letter. This week’s author is Mike Coburn, Research!America’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

Members of Congress are back in town following the Fourth of July holiday, and talks are taking place between Congressional leaders and the Administration to resolve the issue of the budget. Complicating matters is the need for Congress to pass and the Administration to approve an increase in the debt limit. Research!America sent a letter to Congressional leaders and the White House urging swift action. While news reports indicate the Administration is encouraging Congress to raise the debt limit, it is unclear if an agreement to do so would be paired with a broader, two-year budget deal. We must continue to make the case for why raising the caps is critical for funding science. Tweet your congressional delegation to share “reasons to raise the caps.”  

Earlier today, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a markup to consider a number of expiring health programs, including the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The Subcommittee approved a three-year reauthorization of PCORI. While this is a welcome first step, a short extension is problematic given the long time horizons required for many research projects. We will continue to push for a ten-year authorization as the bill moves to the full Committee for consideration, possibly as early as next week. 

The issue of untoward foreign influence in U.S. medical research continues to receive policymaker attention. You may recall that last week, Research!America sent a letter of support to the lead authors of the bipartisan Securing American Science and Technology Act (SASTA), H.R.3038. The bill authorizes the OSTP to convene an interagency group of science, security, and intelligence agencies to evaluate the current systems in place to protect federally funded research and to develop a plan to address gaps. We appreciate the bill’s considered approach and were pleased to see it included in the House National Defense Authorization Act currently being debated on the floor.  

Former National Institutes of Health director and Research!America board member Elias A. Zerhouni, MD wrote an op-ed in Science in which he points out numerous successes in U.S. science, technology, engineering and math from the work of foreign-born scientists. Dr. Zerhouni argues, “the United States should not risk losing critical intellectual assets such as productive foreign-born scientists and engineers to global competitors to serve short-term security concerns at the expense of long-term national interests.” The American Association of Universities (AAU) is leading an effort to engage policymakers on this issue. You may wish to reach out to them for more information. 

The White House just announced the recipients of the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on early career science and engineering professionals, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). Since 1996, PECASE has acknowledged a select group for their contributions to research and to community service. Many recipients are affiliated with our university members. Congratulations to the winners for their twin dedication to science and the public interest.

Each month, Research!America hosts a meeting/teleconference for members on important issues. Please mark your calendars for our next alliance member meeting/teleconference: Tuesday, July 23, 2019, at 11 a.m. ET. 

Sincerely,

 

Mike Coburn

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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