Home » Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter » The Case for Course Correction

The Case for Course Correction

Dear Research Advocate,

We seldom open this letter highlighting one of our alliance meetings, but yesterday’s discussion about the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a timely and important exception. We spoke with Amira Roess, PhD, MPH, Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology at George Mason University. She shared information in a way that makes it useful for kitchen table conversations as we all consider how to live and plan given Omicron.

One thing that came through clearly in hearing from Dr. Roess is how important fast- and faster-paced research truly is. And the pace of research progress depends on investment.

S&T Need & Opportunity: The Hill has published an op-ed I authored with fellow Science and Technology Action Committee (STAC) Co-Chair and Research!America Emeritus Board Member Keith Yamamoto, PhD, vice chancellor for science policy and strategy at the University of California, San Francisco. We urge Congressional leaders and President Biden to assign a higher priority to our nation’s science and technology enterprise.

We discuss how the stark challenges of COVID-19, climate change, and slipping global competitiveness have created a once-in-a-generation course correction imperative, and how pending legislation, if passed, could be an important step forward.

The recent STAC briefing paper, “A Roadmap for Investing in Science and Technology,” provides a succinct overview of federal R&D investments including in pandemic preparedness, clean energy, and STEM education under recently enacted and pending legislation. While there is certainly progress, the bottom line according to STAC’s analysis is that even if the cited investments are made and continued, they will reach just 0.84% of U.S. GDP by 2026 rather than the at least 1.4% needed to remain globally competitive.

On the Hill: Research!America sent a letter this week to House and Senate leaders stressing the importance of moving expeditiously to complete FY22 appropriations legislation and emphasizing the need to include supplemental funding to meet the immediate threats posed by Omicron. Today is day 104 of operating under continuing resolutions extending an out-of-date budget. Please take a minute to tweet Congressional leadership, or tag your own Senators and Representative, urging them to move quickly on FY22 appropriations and supplemental funding!

FDA Commissioner Update: Earlier today, the Senate HELP Committee approved the nomination of Robert Califf as FDA Commissioner by a vote of 13-8 along bipartisan lines. We urge the full Senate to approve the nomination as quickly as possible given the critical challenges the FDA is charged with helping our nation to address.

Senate HELP Hearing on COVID-19: On Tuesday, members of the Senate HELP Committee heard from and questioned agency leaders about the federal government’s recent response to the pandemic. Senators expressed the frustration and confusion of their constituents at the lack of access to COVID tests and at not understanding COVID-19 guidelines.

NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci highlighted the importance of developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine (sometimes referred to as a “universal coronavirus vaccine”), one that would be effective against all SARS-CoV-2 variants and ultimately against all coronaviruses. His comments echoed many of the points he and fellow experts articulated in a NEJM Perspectives piece last month.

Obesity Crisis Discussion: Join us Thursday, January 20, at 3 p.m. ET for a panel discussion on “A Path to Progress: Perspectives on Obesity Research and Treatment.” More than 42% of adults in the U.S. are obese and are at increased risk from a host of serious chronic diseases, including COVID-19. Our speakers will explore the multifaceted obesity crisis, including its relevance to health disparities, and the role of research and development in addressing the crisis.

Upcoming Special Discussion: Join us Wednesday, January 19, at 1 p.m. ET for a discussion with Sue Peschin, MHS, President and CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research, a respected expert in the complex area of aging research and policy. She will share how the organization has evolved under her leadership, its priorities in 2022, and her vision for successful advocacy.

This discussion is part of our series highlighting our 2022 Advocacy Awards honorees. (The 2022 Advocacy Awards will be held on March 16, just two months away.)

Moving Forward, Together: As we face the opportunities and challenges of the year ahead, it’s important to recognize the successes of the last year. We encourage you to review our 2021 accomplishments achieved by working together with you.

Become a Research!American!: Our Careers page lists several openings. Our latest posting is for a Science Policy Fellow, sponsored by Dr. Leroy Hood. Applications are due by January 21. We would appreciate it if you would spread the word and share this link to all our open positions.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected. 

Mary Woolley