Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Public Perspectives, Policy Imperatives

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

In an opinion piece in The Hill yesterday, Research!America Board Member Sudip Parikh, PhD, CEO of AAAS, and Gary K. Michelson, MD, founder and co-chair of Michelson Philanthropies, stress the importance of federal investment in science, noting how federally supported innovations have produced tremendous return on investment and, along with private-sector innovation, have kept America at the forefront of science and technology. 

An editorial by The Roanoke Times this week highlights the power of public opinion surveys to provide fuel for positive action in regard to science and technology (and so many other priorities). It cites our recent survey of Virginians’ attitudes on biomedical research and innovation, commissioned by Research!America in partnership with Virginia Tech. The editorial makes the case that lawmakers should listen to residents, who clearly recognize the value of S&T across the public-private sector ecosystem. 

Contact Anna Platt if you’re interested in partnering with us to take the public pulse on issues important to the future of research, innovation, and health. 

Doctors Most Trusted: The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released findings from its COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor Survey Tracker for April yesterday. This series of public opinion polls have helped gauge changing attitudes and circumstances over the course of the pandemic. According to the KFF survey, personal physicians remain the most trusted source for COVID-19 vaccine information, followed by employers and health insurers. Local health departments and government agencies lag behind these other sources. 

Like many organizations and alliances, we are deeply involved in issues of public trust in science and its messengers, and the implications for public health. Are you working on this issue, too? We’d love to hear more – email Research!America’s Sophia Kaska. 

How Americans Engage with Science: Join a discussion with Chris Volpe, executive director of ScienceCounts, to hear an overview of key findings from a year-long study focused on issues inexorably tied to trust: Americans’ interest in science, motivations for participating in science-related activities, and barriers that stand in the way. Register to attend the discussion, scheduled for Thursday, May 12, noon to 1 p.m. ET. 

On the Hill: Deadlines are fast approaching for written testimony making the case for appropriations priorities. One example: the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture Subcommittee, which counts FDA among its allocation responsibilities, announced this week the deadline for testimony is COB tomorrow! Short notice indeed. Please don’t hesitate to draw from our testimony if it proves helpful, and we hope you find this testimony deadline tracker useful. 

Laying the Groundwork for Robust Research Funding: As the appropriations process moves forward, a crucial decision that congressional appropriators must make is how much funding will be allocated to each appropriations subcommittee working on different pieces of the discretionary budget pie. Now is the time to push for the budget allocation needed to ensure NIH, CDC, AHRQ, BARDA, and other key health agencies under the purview of the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee receive robust increases in FY23. Sign your organization on to this letter to Appropriations leadership right away. Email Sheila Murphy to discuss.  

COVID-19 Supplemental: There is still no agreement on what a Ukraine/COVID-19 supplemental spending bill would encompass or when it will be considered, although we do know that some members of Congress continue to push back against the need for additional COVID-19 funding.  

As we have emphasized in several letters now, COVID-19 is not in our rearview mirror (two new subvariants are circulating in South Africa. More funding absolutely is needed to replenish stockpiles, avoid the mistake – from both a public health and fiscal perspective – of stopping foundational research and later stage pandemic R&D midstream, and meet other basic COVID-19 related needs. Whether or not you have done so before, use this editable email to make the case.  

PDUFA: House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Brett Guthrie (R-KY) unveiled a legislative package that will reauthorize FDA user fee agreements.  

The package includes language on FDA’s accelerated approval regulatory pathway and a detailed plan to improve clinical trial diversity, among other provisions. The Senate HELP Committee is expected to release its version shortly. While September 30 is the reauthorization deadline, enactment ahead of the August recess is the goal of committee leaders. Read and share our new PDUFA fact sheet. 

ICYMI: Our alliance discussion today featured Clay Alspach, Principal at Leavitt Partners and Former Chief Health Counsel of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, who provided a timely and tremendously useful state of play on the PDUFA VII process. Watch the recording. 

Upcoming Alliance Member Discussion: The new Director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Robert Otto Valdez, PhD, will be joining us for an alliance discussion on Tuesday, May 10, at 11 a.m. ET. Dr. Valdez is determined to elevate the priority of health services research to the benefit of our individual and collective health, safety, and the fiscal future of our nation.  

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected. 

Mary Woolley

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We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
Mary Woolley, President and CEO, Research!America