Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Vote Science Strong

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

How to Fight for the Future: Ruth Bader Ginsburg lived her life fearlessly. She refused to let the present dictate the future. Her dogged persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and her sense of civic responsibility transcended ideology. Regardless of the chain of events her death triggered, our nation would be well served by channeling Justice Ginsburg’s fierce commitment to societal progress as we confront a confluence of daunting national and global challenges. So what can research advocates do? The following thoughts are suggestive, not exhaustive!

Make the Case: The American Academy of Arts and Sciences will release a report next week, “The Perils of Complacency: America at a Tipping Point in Science & Engineering.” As COVID-19 continues along its treacherous path, as China methodically, strategically, builds out its R&D capacity, as natural disasters intensify and longstanding threats like drug-resistant superbugs fester, our nation must come together to reclaim and reignite science and engineering to innovate the future we want, rather than accept a default option. Register here for the September 30, 2020 release.

The Next Administration Must Get Science and Technology Policy Right,” written by the bipartisan Day One Project Leadership Council, appears this week in Scientific American. The authors urge the executive branch to “leverage the science and technology community and work towards ideas that can shape our nation’s future for the better.” Read more about the Day One Project, and don’t miss Research!America’s Day One contribution, “Modernizing the Relationship between Scientists and the Public.”

I was privileged to participate, along with Esther Krofah, Executive Director of FasterCures, in an episode of a Pew Charitable Trust’s podcast series entitled: Conversations on Science: In Pursuit of Scientific Discovery. While I focused on setting our sites far higher when it comes to fueling medical progress, the case for stepping up to meet the moment applies equally well across all of science. 

(Note: if you missed or want to rewatch the Vaccine Development panel Esther moderated during our National Health Research Forum, you can now access all recordings through our Forum webpage.)

Engage Candidates: November 3, 2020, Election Day, is quickly approaching. To secure a science strong nation, today’s candidates must become tomorrow’s R&D champions. Use our candidate engagement site: www.VoteScienceStrong.com to find: 

  • Fact-based resources, public opinion polling, and questions research advocates can use in candidate outreach;

  • Information on where to find tele-town halls in your community; And much, much more.

Help assure that candidates, regardless of political affiliation, appreciate R&D’s strategic significance and the pressing need for knowledgeable and committed R&D champions.

Keep Advocating: Earlier this week, the House passed bipartisan legislation to flat-fund the federal government through December 11, 2020. The Senate is likely to pass the bill next week and the President will sign it, avoiding a government shutdown for the time being.

Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) directed House committee chairs to put together a scaled-down COVID-19 supplemental relief package as a launching point for negotiations with the White House. Scaled down could mean the omission of supplemental research funding unless advocates speak up NOW. Use this editable email to reach out to your members of Congress and urge them to support $26 billion in emergency funding to fill the research funding gaps COVID-19 has created! 

Be Vigilant: Today, National Academy of Sciences President Dr. Marsha McNutt and National Academy of Medicine President and Research!America Board member Dr. Victor Dzau issued a statement reinforcing the importance of leveraging the knowledge science confers to inform policy making and maintaining a firewall between that process and politics. “We find ongoing reports and incidents of the politicization of science, particularly the overriding of evidence and advice from public health officials and derision of government scientists, to be alarming.”

The politicization of science, and of COVID-19 emergency spending, is alarming, tragic, and dangerous. Each life needlessly lost, each moment of grief and suffering this pandemic engenders, cannot be reversed. COVID-19 has taken more than 200,000 American lives. The political ends that are compromising the integrity of federal decision-making and confounding agreement on emergency spending do not, pragmatically or ethically, justify the means. 

Partner with Us: Yesterday, Pete Kirkham from Red Maple Consulting joined Research!America alliance members to discuss the status of FY21 appropriations, the prospects for an emergency spending bill with supplemental research funding, and the 2020 election outlook. We also discussed the aforementioned candidate engagement initiative. Email Ellie at Edehoney@researchamerica.org if you missed the meeting and would like a quick recap. 

Join us next week on September 30, 2020, from 2:30-3 p.m. ET when we will hear from Dr. Larry Tabak, Principal Deputy Director of NIH. Register here. Note that this virtual meeting could quickly reach capacity. If your organization is an alliance member, register soon! If you have questions for Dr. Tabak, please email them to editor@researchamerica.org. If you are part of an organization that is not yet a Research!America member, I hope you’ll connect with Katie at kgoode@researchamerica.org to learn more about us. The larger our alliance, the greater the advocacy impact we have. Join us!

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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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