A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: Priority status for research

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: 
As task force meetings for Vice President Biden’s “moonshot” initiative began this week, a new public opinion survey commissioned by Research!America showed that 50% of Americans favor a tax increase to fund cancer research. While this manner of funding the moonshot is not currently on the table, the survey finding underscores the high priority Americans place on curing cancer. The President told Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan that assuring resources for research, cancer in particular, is one of his five priorities for working across the aisle this year. His FY17 budget proposal -- scheduled for release next Tuesday -- will reportedly request additional dedicated funding for the moonshot and for combating substance abuse. The fact is that research for health is not a partisan issue -- and in 2015 we saw congressional champions from both parties act to support research. There is every reason to be optimistic, but we can’t take anything for granted.
February is a critical time in the budget and appropriations process for FY17. Parallel to the President’s budget request, Congress will be working on funding levels for each appropriations subcommittee. Every member of Congress will share her/his priorities (which typically reflect those of constituents -- read: here’s where your influence matters the most!) with the Appropriations Committees.  Please take a moment to urge your representatives in the House and Senate to include robust funding for NIH, CDC, AHRQ, NSF, and FDA in their list of priorities for FY17. You can use an editable message that takes only a moment to send. If you don’t let your representatives in both chambers know that research matters to you, they won’t know to make it a priority!
The Iowa caucus on Monday marked the first opportunity for Americans to be directly engaged in the presidential race. From now ‘til November there will be ample opportunities to start a dialogue with candidates about research for health, and not only in caucus sessions or in the voting booth. Our Campaign for Cures arms advocates like you with tools to help in conversations at campaign events, via social media, or in op-eds and letters to the editor. As you think about questions for candidates, consult Science magazine’s great resource to see what presidential hopefuls have said to date across a variety of topics -- from research funding to climate change and beyond. 
A final update -- the WHO has declared Zika a global health emergency. The Lancet has established a timely, free access Zika virus resource center. This portal brings together evidence and commentary from across The Lancet publications “to assist researchers, policymakers, and health workers in understanding the effects of the outbreak and how best to respond.” The rapidly evolving and intensifying Zika threat illustrates why Americans expect their elected leaders in Washington to be more than fair weather friends to our nation’s research and public health agencies.  CDC, NIH and our other health agencies must be more robustly equipped to anticipate and address unforeseen -- and in the vast majority of cases, unforeseeable -- crises.  Our thanks to everyone on the frontlines of the Zika response.

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We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
Mary Woolley, President and CEO, Research!America