A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Return on Investment in Research and Innovation

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

As I reflect on the accomplishments of the year for advocacy for research and innovation, the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is foremost in my mind, but more work lies ahead as it is executed and more work broadly speaking, to ensure that research for health -- and science and innovation overall -- is treated as a top national priority for the incoming Administration and Congress. I discussed this at UConn’s Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) Kavli Seminar last week, emphasizing that all of us who care about our scientific enterprise must step up our engagement with decision-makers. I invite you to view the presentation or read the recap.

Reports suggest the Trump Administration will be open to such engagement, and that the President-elect is eager to learn more about science and innovation. In an interview with STAT news, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he believes the Trump Administration will embrace science and “continue the momentum on NIH.” To help you stay up to date regarding science in the new Administration, check out AAAS’s election transition information site. AAAS CEO and Research!America board member, Rush Holt, weighed in on the need for policymakers to reach conclusions based on evidence in an op-ed published this week in The Star Ledger.

The importance of evidence-based decision-making is highlighted in a recent report from the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ), which analyzed the impact of healthcare delivery research in combatting hospital-acquired infections (HAI). The report found that between 2010 and 2015, HAI fell by more than 20%-- saving 125,000 lives and $28 billion. To understand the magnitude of this, we did some rough calculations taking AHRQ’s entire FY15 budget ($363 million) into consideration. (Obviously this is not the only work AHRQ funds, nor has their funding been limited to one year -- we’re going for rough numbers here.)  If we assume just half of the observed decline in HAI is due to AHRQ’s work in this area, there is nearly an 8 to 1 annual return on investment (ROI).

There are in fact many examples of solid ROI in research and innovation, and not just in health care delivery research, yet all too often this is overlooked.  We know that national and regional businesses alike recognize the value of research. Aram Nerpouni, president and CEO of BioEnterprise, a Cleveland-based business accelerator, discussed the local impact of research in an op-ed this week and urged his members of Congress to vote to increase investments. To help demonstrate the impact of research in the states, we have developed a new fact sheet series, “Innovation in Your State.” We have recently added AL, AZ, CT, DE, FL, KS, IL, MD, MI, MN, NV, RI, TN, and WY to our expanding series; please put these to work in your advocacy in the coming year.

The most important research and innovation ROI of all is better health and quality of life for more Americans. That is, indeed, why Research!America exists. My colleagues join me in wishing you and yours good health and good times with family and friends this holiday season.  


Mary Woolley

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America’s economic destiny lies in innovation, technology, science and research.
The Honorable John E. Porter