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These Times Call for Action

Dear Research Advocate,

On the Hill: Major deadlines (end of fiscal year, hitting the debt limit) and conflicting policy priorities (reconciliation and infrastructure bills) have triggered a frenetic atmosphere in Congress, leaving actions needed to address major national challenges very much up in the air. Today, both chambers passed a stopgap spending bill (“Continuing Resolution” or CR) flat-funding the government through early December; the measure is headed to the President’s desk to be signed before midnight. Here is an editable Tweet thanking Congressional leaders for preventing a government shutdown but urging them to act; not wait for the CR to expire before finalizing FY22 spending.

We don’t know the final outcome of negotiations on the reconciliation package. As mentioned last week, it might include funding for public health and NSF, but might also trigger controversial changes to drug pricing. We will keep you informed of developments. Meanwhile, infrastructure legislation remains in limbo as well. 

One thing we know for certain is that the next pandemic is not an ‘if;’ it’s a ‘when.’ A bipartisan draft bill on pandemic preparedness could be released as soon as mid-October, a welcome development after so many of you took action last week to urge your representatives to make pandemic preparedness a priority. See below for an upcoming alliance member meeting on this topic. 

A Work in Progress: ARPA-H: Today, the White House and NIH released a report summarizing the 15 listening sessions held to date on the proposed ARPA-H. Register to attend a further session on October 20, 2:30 – 4 p.m. ET, to respond to the summary and offer additional recommendations.

Disturbing Trends Call for Action: The recently-released National Science Board’s Science & Engineering Indicators 2022 Report is, as always, an important read. The section on Academic Research and Development finds the U.S. ranked 23rd of 44 countries in higher education R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP, one of several disturbing trends that call for action. It’s time to realize the policy changes recommended in the Science & Technology Action Plan. If your organization hasn’t yet endorsed the Action Plan, please do!

Act on Real-World Evidence: The FDA has released draft guidance for industry and other stakeholders on the use of real-world evidence (RWE) such as electronic medical records and claims data in the approval of drugs and biologics. Comments are due by November 29, 2021. This draft guidance is part of a series of RWE-related guidances required by the original 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 as well as the current user fee agreement. 

Watch a discussion with Cures co-sponsors Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) from our recent National Health Research Forum and read our statement on recent “Cures 2.0” draft language. 

Act to Empower Scientists to Engage: In a letter to the editor in Issues in Science and Technology, I respond to an article authored by Alan Leshner, agreeing with his point that scientists must move beyond explaining to engaging. I make the case that learning to engage effectively with nonscientists is a critical skill that should be part of every graduate science curriculum. Read more about how that might happen. 

Science for Combatting Pandemics and More: The 2021 Lasker Awards, announced last Friday, are often awarded to those who go on to win the Nobel Prize. This year, the tables were turned as Dr. David Baltimore received a Lasker Award 46 years after he won the Nobel. Congratulations to all of this year’s awardees, including Drs. Katalin Karikó of BioNTech and Drew Weissman of the University of Pennsylvania who received Lasker recognition for their mRNA work leading to the rapid creation of highly-effective COVID-19 vaccines. (We honored Drs. Karikó and Weissman in May with the Research!America Building the Foundation Award. It’s their year, to be sure!) Tune in to the exceptionally well-produced Lasker Award video shorts.

Alliance Member Meeting Recap: 

  • On Tuesday, Rena D’Souza, DDS, MS, PhD, Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, eloquently explained how oral health significantly impacts overall physical health and is linked to specific diseases.  Watch her presentation.

  • Today we heard from Paul Epner, MBA, MEd, CEO of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine, about solving the problem of diagnostic error in medicine, including the need for more research and better validation. Watch the conversation.

Upcoming Alliance Member Meetings: 

  • Join us on Wednesday, October 6, 1 p.m. ET, to hear from Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University, who will discuss science communication and how to engage with science skeptics through “technique rebuttal.” 

  • Join us on Wednesday, October 13, 2 p.m. ET, when Jane Bigham, MPH, Senior Health Policy Advisor, Senate HELP Committee, will speak with us off-the-record about Chairwoman Patty Murray’s (D-WA) vision for pandemic preparedness legislation.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.


Mary Woolley