Naomi Charalambakis, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Louisville, struggled with an eating disorder as a young adult which compelled her to learn more about how the brain works and eventually become a research advocate. The importance of advocating for robust federal investments in basic science to help understand eating disorders, mental health issues and other diseases was the focus of a panel discussion at Neuroscience 2017 in Washington, D.C. on November 14, 2017.
“As scientists, your voice is very, very important,” said Andrew Sperling, director of legislative advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, when referring to the influence scientists have on policymakers and their staff as they are making research funding decisions. Lack of funding for mental illness has led to fewer treatments available for patients with disabling conditions, such as schizophrenia, he said.
Mary Woolley, Research!America president and CEO, shared public opinion survey data which showed that Americans believe scientists should play a major role in shaping public policy. The data also revealed that scientists and research institutions in the U.S. are largely invisible in society. Woolley emphasized the need for scientists to engage not only with policymakers but with other non-scientific audiences to drum up support for research. “You cannot outsource advocacy,” she added.