Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Let’s Get To Work

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

The election is yet another way 2020 is testing us like no other year. Let’s pull through by pulling together and putting science to work as never before.

The key question for us all, advocates of faster scientific, medical, and public health progress: What can we do today to advance that progress?

  1. Gather evidence and speak out. If R&D stakeholders want the next emergency package to include supplemental funding for stalled or reprogrammed research, we need to act now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said he would like to move a supplemental by the end of the year. Not only is funding needed for federal grants, but COVID has decimated grant funding from patient organizations, jeopardizing cutting-edge research across the nation. Many independent clinical trial sites are struggling, and that means patients are waiting longer and longer for solutions. Ellie Dehoney spoke with an NPR station last week about disrupted university research. If your research — basic, clinical, epidemiological, health services, or other — is at risk, email Anna at to help build the case we need to secure research relief.

  2. Share your successes. Has technology transfer enabled your research to be translated into a viable solution for individuals or public health, or have you or someone you love benefited from discovery-to-development-to-delivery? Please tell us about it. Regardless of the political landscape next year, it is likely we will see efforts to entangle tech transfer in the debate over how to make health care more affordable. We need tech transfer and we need accessibility and affordability — and they are dependent upon each other. Help highlight the enormous successes of Bayh-Dole. Email Robert your examples of tech transfer successes:

  3. Promote Sound Science. Last week’s letter discussed an Executive Order that would create a new classification for certain civil servants, enabling their firing without cause. The pressure this EO will create to either toe the political line or avoid these jobs altogether is concerning, to say the least. The International & American Associations for Dental Research are circulating a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) thanking them for introducing the Saving the Civil Service Act (H.R.8687). We have signed on to the letter and you can too; the deadline to do so is Monday, November 9, 2020.

What’s Next?: Our Post-Election Briefing is November 10, 2020 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. Gather with us to hear from Research!America board member Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association; Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington Bureau Chief and anchor and Director of The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs; Pete Kirkham of Red Maple Consulting; and Ellie Dehoney, our Vice President of Policy and Advocacy. We are close to capacity, so register now!

Strategic Thinking About NIH for the Next Administration: Chaired by Dr. Keith Yamamoto of UCSF (and a Research!America board member), a group of leaders from the biomedical science community today released a “Vision and Pathway” for the NIH in the years ahead. The group, which also includes former NIH Directors Drs. Harold Varmus and Elias Zerhouni (also a Research!America board member), provides strategies for achieving the highest impact in research and training, and for improving health and combating disease.

A Sea Change is Needed: Our friends at AAAS are tackling racial and ethnic disparities in science head-on. Their SEA Change initiative aims to translate the objective of diversity, equity, and inclusion into concrete strategies. Late last week, AAAS released a baseline assessment of their own demographic representation. Challenging the status quo is rarely easy, but if the metric for any scientific endeavor were ‘easy,’ the 21st century might look very much like the 19th. Kudos to AAAS CEO Dr. Sudip Parikh (another Research!America board member).

Upcoming: Join us on Thursday, November 19, 2020 at 11 a.m. ET for “RNAi: From Nobel Winning Science to Next Generation Treatment,” a virtual briefing moderated by Dr. Elias Zerhouni featuring Nobel Laureate Dr. Phillip Sharp and other leaders in the field. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the arduous path, from discovery to development to delivery, of one of the most important research platforms in use today...not to mention its relevance to COVID-19. Register here.

Public Health Thank You Day: The Monday before Thanksgiving is Public Health Thank You Day (November 23, 2020). Join Research!America and allies to recognize the tireless public health workforce who keeps us safe 24/7. Use the hashtag #PHTYD on Facebook and Twitter. We’ve benefited from many heroes in 2020 with the contributions of the public health workforce shining brightly. Look for this year’s resource toolkit on Monday. 

A Legacy of Impact: Our nation and the global community has lost a visionary health policy researcher and advocate, Dr. Phillip Lee. Phil, who served in the administrations of Presidents Johnson and Clinton, played an important role in guiding Research!America as a Board, and later, Emeritus Board, member. As COVID-19 continues its treacherous path, Phil’s contributions take on even more meaning.

Nominate a star: Submissions for the 2021 Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards are due December 20. The top prize, the “Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award,” exemplifies innovation and creativity, advances science, and impacts a human disease. Read and share information about the Clinical Research Forum’s award.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.


Mary Woolley

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter