A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley- Warning: A government shutdown could be dangerous to your health

Dear Research Advocate:

Congress is on the brink of forcing a government shutdown on Tuesday, October 1. The implications of a shutdown are being subsumed by coverage of the political theater taking place. That is an injustice to Americans, who will be affected.  History is illustrative on this point.

During the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, the NIH turned away new patients at the Clinical Center. Research studies housed at federal institutions ceased for the duration of the shutdown; researchers and leaders of industry, academia as well as in government agencies were unable to plan effectively, wasting time and money; the CDC was forced to stop disease surveillance programs, leaving us unacceptably vulnerable to emerging health threats and even pandemics; NSF could not release grant funds, resulting in a backlog of thousands of proposals, and those were just a few of numerous effects. Compounding the impact this time around is the costly toll that sequestration — on top of a decade of stagnant funding — has already taken in undermining the promise of research and innovation.

A recent New York Times op-ed by Thomas Friedman that was published in other newspapers underscored for me exactly how high the stakes are right now, and a Roll Call op-ed by Morton Kondracke provides additional context.  These two voices are prominent among this week’s sampling from an increasing number of informed individuals who are articulating what all the trends show:  the US is on a path to scientific, and potentially general, decline.  Add to this that the US is already ranked far below where we should and aspire to be in health indicators.  The question is:  why are these twin realities not receiving more attention from our elected officials? Too few Americans are demanding common sense from Washington; please raise your voice louder and longer, and do it now. Then urge everyone in your network to do the same.  Help us deliver this message to your members of Congress — we want #curesnotcuts!

Last week I told you about a movement by new-(ish) House members to change the dynamic on Capitol Hill. A new Senator is also speaking up, and invites you to join the conversation.  Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is harnessing the power of social media, by holding a Google Hangout TODAY at 3pm ET to advance her pro-innovation legislative agenda. Whether you are an outright fan of her bill or just an interested party, it’s worth participating!

Speaking of social media, it’s past time for scientists to harness the power of social media and other communications tools to become stronger advocates for research.  Media and policy experts will share tips on how to effectively communicate to reporters and policy makers at our Research Matters Communications Workshop at George Washington University on October 9.  There’s still time to register.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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