Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: If we don’t speak up…

Robert Shalett

Dear Research Advocate,

Our guest author this week is Robert Shalett, Research!America’s Director of Communications.

Critical to Research!America’s mission is to encourage researchers to talk about their work. It is important for non-scientists to know how research and scientific discovery support all Americans in our daily lives, from professional settings to at home. Our survey data indicates that the public thinks it is important for scientists to discuss their research and its impact.

But that is only part of it. Effective advocacy campaigns require focused, sustained effort. This is why your voice is needed right now. As my colleague Ellie mentioned last week, the hard-fought lifting of the budget caps is more than welcome and overdue. However, news reports indicate Congressional leaders are considering a possible continuing resolution (“CR”) as a stopgap measure to give legislators more time to reach agreement on Fiscal Year 2020 funding levels. A CR would slow medical and health research momentum. 

Additionally concerning: in recent years, Congress has needed several CRs before reaching a final deal - negatively impacting morale inside and outside of Washington, and hindering the ability of federal agencies to attract the personnel they need. Steven Grossman, Deputy Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA, wrote an analysis highlighting possible stumbling blocks before FY20 appropriations levels are final. Can you take a moment to email your members of Congress urging them to complete the appropriations process on time and include robust funding for health and medical research?

Research!America is rolling out one-pagers you can use to help make the case for why funding the CDC, NIH, NSF, FDA, and AHRQ is so important. The spotlight this week is on AHRQ, an agency that works hard and effectively to improve the safety and quality of our health care system and help all Americans make informed health care decisions.

AHRQ’s mission goes hand in hand with that of another important research organization, the Patient-Centered Research Outcomes Institute (PCORI). Advocacy is needed here too - PCORI’s authorization expires at the end of September unless Congress acts. For more information and for advocacy opportunities, check out the Friends of PCORI Reauthorization’s website. Interested in learning more about the crucial work of AHRQ and PCORI? Gopal Khanna, the Director of AHRQ, and Joe Selby, Executive Director of PCORI, are both panelists at our National Health Research Forum on September 5, 2019!  More information about the Forum is at the end of this letter. 

You may have seen an article in the most recent issue of The New Yorker about the growing threat of vaccine-avoidance and misinformation, which further underscores why focused, sustained science communication is so important. In addition, a recent report from the Pew Research Center finds that the scientific profession scores highly in publicly perceived intelligence and honesty, but not in the area of communication. Closing that gap can save lives - speak up now!

The deadline is approaching for Research!America’s Civic Engagement Microgrant Program. Please share this information and the link to submit applications with graduate student and postdoc-led science policy groups. The funding is so important because it equips our next generation of scientists to persuasively engage with government officials and community leaders. Contact our Science Outreach Coordinator, Caitlin Grzeskowiak (cgrzeskowiak@researchamerica.org) with questions. Proposals are due September 20, 2019. Up to 15 student groups will be eligible for grant money.

If you haven’t registered for our National Health Research Forum on September 5, 2019, we have good news and bad news. It is at capacity, but there is a waiting list and we are once again livestreaming the event. The waiting list registration and livestream link are available here. Please join us! Follow along on Twitter: #RAForum19.

Sincerely,

Robert Shalett

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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana