A Weekly Advocacy Message From Mary Woolley: Pomp and Circumstance and a Wrench in the Works

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: 

It's graduation season and a time to consider the opportunities - and challenges - facing young people, our workforce, our economy and our nation. The director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. France A. Cordova challenged graduates at Rochester Institute of Technology (video here) to find the value in all experiences in life - even when the benefit might not be immediate - and to work with individuals from a wide variety of fields to address the grand challenges of our time. Her messages resonate as lessons learned from basic research, a venture rich in challenge, with gains not always clear at the outset, enhanced by collaborations across disciplines, and ultimately the stuff of breath-taking achievement.

Also in the STEM arena, a bit of good news: The 2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index showed a slight rise in technology and engineering hiring and in the proportion of STEM degrees awarded. But a “slight rise” isn’t good enough; the American public expects much more! Seventy-three percent of Americans say the federal government should assign a higher priority to improving STEM education and careers. (For science students and graduates interested in gaining experience in science policy, advocacy, and communications without delay, Research!America is hiring (paid!) interns and fellows right now! Contact us or send our career postings to your network.)

The news for basic science is not so good on Capitol Hill. The House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Committee passed a bill through the full committee this week, allocating only $7.4 billion to the NSF, nearly $60 million less than FY16 enacted level, approximately $100 million less than the Senate FY17 proposed allocation, and almost $160 million less than the President’s request. This is not what aspiring young STEM graduates want to hear if they are to be inspired to continue in the field; they want to know that their nation is embracing a knowledge and innovation-based future, and investing accordingly. Speak out for graduates!  Let your representatives know why basic research at the NSF needs to be robustly supported. Use this email message.

When it comes to research, funding isn’t the only way legislators and concerned members of the patient community and the public weigh in. We are hearing criticism regarding the lack of reproducibility in federally funded research from several quarters, including as it relates to a lack of transparency. Research!America is co-sponsoring a timely conference with Friends of the National Library of Medicine on June 9-10 to thoroughly explore the reproducibility issue. The list of speakers is impressive and registration is still open; join us!

As part of our Campaign for Cures voter education initiative, I spoke with the hosts of NPR affiliate WABE-FM in Atlanta on Tuesday, the day of the Georgia congressional primary. I explained why candidates should speak up about the need for faster medical progress, and why voters - and journalists - should question the candidates. We had a good conversation - listen here.


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