A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Omnibus Puts More Science to Work

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

Last week at our awards event, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi announced that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could see a $3 billion increase for FY18. Now that the omnibus deal has been struck (you can find the full text here), we know that Leader Pelosi’s announcement was spot on and just the beginning of the good news. In addition to the unprecedented NIH increase, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also received funding increases. Here are the numbers and see our statement for more details.

Health research was not the only area of science boosted in the funding bill. The National Science Foundation, for example, received a 4% increase and the funding for other science agencies is also positive (check out this summary from AAAS for more). As you recall, our broad science-focused Raise the Caps initiative, in support of NDD United's fantastic #RaiseTheCaps efforts, had two parts: raise the caps and devote more money to science. I’m thrilled to be able to say that your efforts and those of other terrific science advocates have had impact!  With great thanks to our science champions on the Hill, both of these marks have been hit! Advocacy works!

The news on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also positive. The agency received a modest increase in its base budget, plus nearly $100 million in much needed opioid response funding. FDA is pivotal to our nation’s public health and safety, and this increase is an important step in the right direction.

In terms of the bill’s impact on research-related policy, let me highlight three areas: the “indirect” costs of federally-funded science, fetal tissue research and gun violence research. 

Regarding the first of these, while the administration has not signaled any intent to revisit the issue, members of Congress took no chances and included a provision that continues to prevent modification of the indirect cost calculation.

There was a strong possibility that the omnibus package would include language setting the clock back on fetal tissue and even stem cell research. Advocates from across the research ecosystem pounded the pavement, and the bill is free of provisions affecting these promising avenues of research.

A pair of opinion pieces in the Annals of Internal Medicine and Washington Post, the authors of which include Research!America Board Members Drs. Victor Dzau and Alan Leshner and founding director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Dr. Mark Rosenberg, make a strong case for grounding the nation’s response to gun violence in evidence: “Effective strategies are built on research to identify patterns of risk, illuminate productive targets for intervention, and assess the effectiveness of interventions.” Language added to the omnibus affirms that CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence. Our job going forward is to make sure this translates directly and quickly into research investment.

As the FY18 omnibus crosses the finish line -- and we believe it will before a shutdown occurs --  we should not lose sight of the fact that we still have work to do to: we must keep up the momentum for growth in NIH and all health and science research agencies in FY19. The nation is confronting multiple threats that take lives early, jeopardize our economic competitiveness and drain trillions from our federal coffers. We must combat these threats and not only sustain, but bolster our strategically crucial global leadership in the R&D arena. We all have a role to play. Science and advocacy work!

Sincerely,

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