Research!America’s Post-Election Briefing
The future of science and research for health under a Trump Administration and a Republican majority in Congress was the focus of Research!America’s 2016 Post-Election Briefing at the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on November 15.
Kicking off the program was John Zogby, founder of the “Zogby Poll” and senior partner of John Zogby Strategies. He noted that it’s too soon to know how research will fare under a new Administration but he said people understand that medical research is vital. Following his remarks, a panel comprised of Research!America Chair Hon. John Porter; Vice Chair Gov. Mike Castle; American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO and board member Rush Holt, Ph.D.; and the Hon. Lou Sullivan, M.D., former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services discussed the outlook of research funding and policies that impact public and private sector research. Lori Stokes, co-anchor, WABC-TV Eyewitness News and daughter of the late Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, moderated the panel.
Sullivan said the biggest challenge facing the president-elect and his team is “identifying and recruiting high quality people in his Administration and people who will work together because so much of what one department does is influenced by activities in another.” Porter predicted that the National Institutes of Health will be robustly funded in the next Congress, given that many champions for research were re-elected. “Republicans have one priority [in Labor-H] and that priority is medical research and two chairmen, Tom Cole and Roy Blunt, have both proven that they are strong supporters and if they stay in those positions, I think we have a lot to look forward to that is very positive.” Beyond funding, implementing tax policies that support private sector research, fostering an environment for government funded scientists to speak freely and creating a general “sense of science” across the administration and throughout the Congress, were some of the current unknowns added Holt. He also stressed that policy decisions on the state and local level also impact research for health and should involve the input of advocates.
When asked about the viability of the cancer moonshot initiative, Castle said it is unclear what Vice President Joe Biden’s role will be in leading the effort after leaving office but “hopefully he will stay involved and hopefully the president will engage him and perhaps bring others into it as well in order to continue that momentum.” Porter noted that there may be a shift in the next Congress towards disease specific funding. The cancer moonshot initiative may be renamed, he said, but will remain a priority since many Americans are deeply concerned about the disease. Other items on the new Administration’s agenda that could impact research, Porter added, will likely include tax reform and infrastructure spending.
The panel agreed that more engagement between scientists and policymakers was needed to help shape pro-innovation policies and influence strategic research investments. Sullivan lamented that the culture of the science community is to compartmentalize their work from science policy. He encouraged researchers to educate elected officials about the return on investment with research. “I’ve found over the years that in meeting with members of Congress often they don’t have the information, they welcome it, and they act on it. So I think the scientific community in general really needs to work with organizations like Research!America to see that members of Congress understand programs and support them.”
For a video of the event, click here.