A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Champions at work, advocates at the ready


Dear Research Advocate,

Senators Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC), recently honored with our Whitehead Award for Research Advocacy, have joined forces again with a bipartisan letter calling for a strong commitment to NIH funding in FY 14. Please take a moment now to urge your senators to sign on to this letter. And say thank you to Senators Burr and Casey for being champions for research!

In past letters, I’€™ve written about attempts by Congress to micromanage and in some cases, attack critical components of our nation’€™s research portfolio. The social sciences have been targeted time and time again despite the immense value of these programs and the return on investment they represent. In response, the NSF has released a report, ’€œHow Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research Addresses National Challenges.’€ It will prove useful in your advocacy for these important avenues of research. Next week, COSSA invites you to a briefing on the role social sciences play in improving our response to national disasters – a topic that seems more relevant than ever in light of recent events.

Meanwhile, there has been yet another blow to our nation’€™s public health capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recently been in the news as a first responder to the emergence in China of a human strain of a potentially deadly flu previously found only in animals, reportedly received another fiscal year 2013 funding cut. This $374 million cut, the result of a decision by the Administration to execute a shift in funding away from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, is just the most recent of a series of devastating budget cuts to CDC, an agency with a broad and important mission held back by a tiny budget. The nation at large won’€™t notice the diminution of CDC until the next public health disaster strikes home; and by then, it could be too late. For more information and suggestions for advocacy, contact the Campaign for Public Health Foundation.

Calls to repeal the medical device tax continue including a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal by Dr. Gregory Sorensen, CEO of Siemens Healthcare who points out that this tax is significantly undercutting private discovery and innovation. As research advocates, we must work with policymakers to ensure that our tax and regulatory environment is consistently pro-research and pro-innovation.

The threat to global competitiveness that the medical device tax represents is one example of the consequences of the implementation of a host of bad ideas converging to hamstring innovation — sequestration very much among them.  This week the Milken Institute released its State Technology and Science Index rankings. Check out the state rankings map and key findings. I was struck by this point: ’€œIn 2007, the United States ranked first on the INSEAD Global Innovation Index; now it is 10th. The recession made clear the importance of continuing to invest in innovation and education. Regions that did so are emerging from the recession stronger.’€ The lesson for the nation is clear; are our decision-makers listening?

All of us at Research!America are stunned and saddened by the events in Boston. We extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by this tragedy and applaud first responders and the remarkable teams at Bostons’ outstanding medical centers. The extent of media coverage has been unprecedented. If media were to pay anything close to this level of attention to the hourly toll of lives lost and quality of life sacrificed due to Alzheimer’s, autism, cancer, stroke, a host of neurological and mental health challenges and many more, public demand for research to be deployed at the full extent of scientific opportunity would be heard loud and clear. But because that is not the way the world or the media works, we stakeholders must vocalize demand ourselves. We can help you play your part. Please contact us for ideas and assistance in speaking out.


Mary Woolley

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You can change the image of things to come. But you can’t do it sitting on your hands … The science community should reach out to Congress and build bridges.
The Honorable John E. Porter