A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: All hands on Deck for the Election and the Lame-Duck Session

Mary Woolley

The recent presidential town hall debate didn’t even touch on the critical role science and research play in our nation’s health, security and prosperity. There is one more debate, October 19th, and with the topics already announced, now is the time to suggest questions to moderator Chris Wallace and his Fox producers by tweeting to @FoxNews and @FoxNewsSunday. The list of topics for the debate doesn’t include science in a direct way; however, the economy is on the list, presenting a clear opportunity to ask what each candidate would do to fuel research and innovation in the interest of creating good jobs and driving the economy.

In a recent opinion piece, Bill Gates lays out how political leadership can- and should- accelerate innovation, and the role voters play in making sure this happens. “I think we should consider what kind of leaders can drive the innovations we need.” He identifies four R&D-related priorities and calls for a political climate supportive of both private and public sector innovators, as they each play a critical role in accelerating progress. Also coming out of Seattle is an op-ed penned by Science Coalition leaders highlighting a major statement by business and industry leaders backing basic science. Glynda Becker and Jack Cline outline why it is important for voters to know whether the presidential candidates will stimulate our economy by fueling scientific discovery - or will continue to shortchange it.

There’s been a lot of talk about Millennials as a major force in this election. Larger in number now than Baby Boomers, Millennials are said to be skeptical that politicians care about or can even relate to the same things they do, but are nonetheless in a hurry for societal progress -- attitudes that I think align them well with Research!America’s voter education initiative. Research!America’s Rachel Weissman, herself a Millennial, penned an open letter this week to her peers, urging them to get involved by tapping our Campaign for Cures platform to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, our new online ad campaign reinforces the need for voters who care about medical progress to engage candidates. Read more here.

This good news in: the possibility that a major mental health bill will make it to the president’s desk during the “lame-duck” session of Congress. A recent article in Modern Healthcare discusses the challenges of mental health reform and notes that the policy changes pending in Congress “come as a growing body of research shows that early intervention and treatment can significantly improve the long-term prognosis for people with serious mental illness.” You know and I know that the author is referring not only to biomedical research, but to health care delivery research, as well as behavioral and other social sciences research. With funding for AHRQ and the Social, Behavioral and Economics (SBE) Directorate within the NSF under constant threat, we all have an opportunity to make the case to our elected representatives for support of all the sciences that are necessary to wrestling mental health challenges to the ground. As Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-40) notes in a recent op-ed on the importance of AHRQ: "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This could not be more true for individuals at risk for developing mental illnesses. An ‘all hands on all the research decks’ approach is the only way we will find the much-needed solutions to effectively treating, and ultimately preventing, mental illness.


Mary Woolley

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient