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Ending the crippling constraints on research

Dear Research Advocate:

This afternoon I participated in a stimulating forum on “Transformational Imperatives,” hosted by the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Board members and friends of the Institute engaged speakers on topics of the moment; in fact, my presentation was all about the moment, i.e., “Research in Context.” Scientific opportunities can be enabled or derailed by our elected representatives, who determine funding and policies– which is to say, a major part of the ‘context’ of research. While they don’t do their decision-making in a vacuum, it can seem like that, especially when scientists and all of us who want scientists to succeed, sooner rather than later, fail to speak up. 

Many members of Congress are hearing what is top of mind for their constituents during the August recess. Are they hearing about making medical research a higher priority? I urge you to engage with your representatives one-on-one or at a town hall (check out upcoming in-district events)– speak up for science! In a recent op-ed, Sen. Coons (D-DE) urged the scientific community– and by extension advocates for science– to action, “…don’t just publish your research– publicize it. Scientists simply can’t be silent, or else science truly will be silenced.”

There are some disturbing threats to science right now. You likely share concerns expressed last week about the reemerging (although it is never out of sight) threat to fetal tissue and stem cell research. Potential cuts and changes to indirect costs also place research in the crosshairs and threaten to shutter labs across the nation. In addition, the “Homeland Security Minibus,” which funds 4 of the 12 appropriations bills (Defense, Energy-Water, Legislative Branch and Military Construction-VA) includes a troubling amendment that bans funding for research using dogs at the VA. We have a responsibility to those suffering from deadly and disabling diseases– including those who have served our country and who now look to the VA for hope– to put every avenue of research to work to find solutions. Here are some resources on fetal tissue, indirect costs and animal research to help you navigate these critically important conversations.

In order to achieve sustained, robust federal funding support for research, we must keep up the drum beat for a bipartisan budget deal. Send a message to your representatives to make the case. My Wall Street Journal letter-to-the-editor in response to an op-ed by Sen. Cotton (R-AR), who calls for the repeal of the Budget Control Act of 2011, ending the boom and bust cycle that “cripples the military’s planning ability,” makes the point that budget caps are also having a crippling effect on the nation’s scientific research enterprise. Join us in urging Congress to #RaiseTheCaps.


Mary Woolley