Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Nobel Laureates of today and tomorrow

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

The distinguished 2019 Nobel Laureates announced this week made fundamental discoveries that have transformed the future for Americans and populations across the globe. Taxpayers, via appropriations to NIH and NSF, have long provided support to several of these and many past Nobelists, thereby ensuring that discovery builds on discovery and drives development and delivery of ever-increasing societal benefits over time. (See our statements here and here)

But what are we doing to nurture future Nobel laureates? Robust NIH and NSF support for researchers across the nation hinges on the ability of the House and Senate to negotiate final FY20 appropriations before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on November 21.  While unwelcome rumors of a long-term CR – even year long – have been circulating on Capitol Hill, we now hear that the House and Senate have been discussing funding numbers over the recess. The distance from these discussions to a final package is significant, and that’s where advocacy comes in. 

Public sentiment will influence whether the current momentum waxes or wanes. Research!America sent a letter to Congressional leadership and appropriators yesterday underscoring the importance of meeting the November 21 deadline, and our day-in-and-day-out #CRsStopProgress social media and email campaign continues. The reach and impact of this campaign depends on you. Take a minute now to weigh in.  

We will discuss the state of play on appropriations at our October alliance member meeting later this month. We’ll also focus on the landmark 21st Century Cures Act, brainstorming new ideas for accelerating discovery, development and delivery as Representatives Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Fred Upton (R-MI) begin crafting a 21st Century Cures “2.0” bill. If you are an alliance member, you should have received an email with registration information. If not, please contact Jacqueline Lagoy (jlagoy@researchamerica.org) for more information.

Another upcoming event: Join us for a briefing on Capitol Hill on October 24, 2019 focused on the intensifying threat of antimicrobial resistance and efforts across the public/private sector research and public health ecosystem to address it. Register here

We were glad to see recommendations for assuring science is used in a way that serves the public’s interest in responsible policymaking in a new report out this week. It is the second report from the nonpartisan National Taskforce on Rule of Law and Democracy, a group of former government officials and policy experts that include Chair of Research!America’s board, The Honorable Michael N. Castle, as well as fellow board member and president of the Food and Drug Law Institute, Amy Rick. 

The report points out that the roots of problems like the growing politicization of science run deeper than one administration or Congress; the recommendations aren’t conservative or liberal, but rather eminently logical, and are put forward in the interest of promoting practices that foster government integrity, transparency and effectiveness. It is a thought- and action-provoking read. 

Speaking of thought- and action-provoking, the director of the Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar, writing in Nature, makes the case for a “kinder research culture,” arguing that a single-minded drive for excellence – one focused only on what is achieved, without regard to how it is achieved – is dangerously corrosive to the science ecosystem.  Wellcome’s goal is to “support environments where researchers want to work.” 

Which brings us full circle to solid financial support as one of the critical elements of a supportive environment for research. Don’t put off contacting your member of Congress to urge action on a final FY20 budget. Researchers are weighing their future, and patients (all of us) are waiting.  

Sincerely,

 

Mary Woolley

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