Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Innovation Requires Investment

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Women in Science and Technology: March is Women’s History Month. The impact of COVID-19 on the careers of women in STEMM is the focus of a report to be released by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) on March 9, 2021. How did the COVID-19 pandemic disrupt the careers of women in academic STEMM during 2020 and how might these disruptions—both positive and negative—shape future progress for women in academic STEMM? The public is invited to a discussion with NASEM committee members Eve J. Higginbotham, University of Pennsylvania; Reshma Jagsi, University of Michigan; and Erick C. Jones, University of Texas at Arlington. Register here.

On the Hill: The Senate is at work on a COVID-19 relief package. We are reviewing the latest bill text now and it appears to mirror the House version in that both include funds for NSF and NIST pandemic-impacted research but not similar funds for other key agencies. This is why it is important to continue advocating for research and researchers put on “pause.” The Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act has been introduced in both the House (H.R.869) and the Senate (S.289), and its authors are seeking more cosponsors (the more members that cosponsor a bill, the greater indication of support). This critical legislation authorizes approximately $25 billion for NIH and our nation’s other research agencies to use in addressing research funding gaps created by COVID-19. Reach out to your Members of Congress and ask them to sign on (or thank them if they already have).

Learning about HARPA: In his remarks at a Pfizer manufacturing site on February 19, President Biden mentioned a “DARPA-like advanced research effort” composed of leading scientists who would be tasked with developing a new innovation enterprise. The President was referring to the Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) here and here. Stay tuned for the time and date of an alliance member meeting where we will take a closer look at this proposal. 

Driving Innovation and Opportunity: “Our failure to sustain our investment in research and development is threatening not only Americans’ opportunities, but our innovation leadership,” Dr. Sudip Parikh, AAAS CEO and Research!America Board Member testified before the House Science Committee last week. Tom Quaadman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President, testified that innovative research “is the key to enabling the United States to emerge from the pandemic, spurring economic recovery, creating jobs, and continuing America’s global leadership.” Dr. Parikh will be among those speaking at a Task Force on American Innovation briefing to further discuss the importance of research investment to the U.S. economy and our national security. You can register here for the March 12 event. 

Clear Voices: Many of you tuned in to our conversation with John Burklow, Associate Director for Communications and Public Liaison at NIH. John provided helpful information about how to discuss the value of medical progress with the public. He also mentioned the NIH UNITE initiative which is working to dismantle structural racism in both intramural and extramural research spaces and has identified short and long term actions to foster diversity and inclusion. Watch it here. 

Earlier today we spoke with Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of CDC, and who will be a recipient of our 2021 Clear Voice Award on April 14. Dr. Schuchat provided a clear-eyed and cogent overview of the CDC’s all-consuming efforts against COVID-19.  “For public health to modernize and expand our reach,” she said, “it will have to be both very forward-looking and very inclusive.” Watch it here.

Upcoming Alliance Member Meetings: On Monday, March 8 at 1:15 p.m. ET, we will be joined by Dr. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), to discuss COVID-19 vaccine development, updates to emergency use authorization (EUA), and other pertinent topics. Register here.

On Thursday, March 18 at 2 p.m. ET, we will hear from Dr. David Skorton, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), on the Association’s 2021 priorities, the impact of COVID-19 on medical research, and securing robust FY22 funding for NIH. Register here.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.  

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter