A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: From rhetoric to decision-making

Dear Research Advocate,

Nine times. That’s how often the word “research” was used in Monday’s third and final presidential debate. Clearly, both candidates recognize the importance of research and the role it plays in keeping our nation competitive. The election and decision-making around deficit reduction will put this rhetoric to the test. I was thankful for the opportunity to contribute to an article in Nature on the outlook for research and the candidates’ sometimes competing, sometimes intersecting visions for our nation. Many indicators point to the need for a “grand bargain”  to avoid the fiscal cliff we have talked so much about. Rumors have it that informal talks are taking place now and will go into high gear during the lame-duck session of Congress beginning November 13. This is a critical time, and I urge you to participate in the biomedical and health research community’s Week of Advocacy, taking place November 13-16. Check out our new webpage (www.saveresearch.org) and join us on a conference call this Monday, October 29 (for details, click here), to hear our plans and to brainstorm ideas on how to maximize our collective impact.

Money matters! Every year, we release our U.S. Investment Report, which tracks domestic spending – public, academic, industry, voluntary health organizations and philanthropic – on biomedical and health research. This year we not only look at the most recent investment numbers, but review the stakes going forward. On both fronts, the news is not good: 2011 saw a drop in overall investment – the first in a decade. And as you well know, the policy landscape is treacherous. Click here to view the report.

Every week, we are learning more about the local impact that sequestration could have on a sluggish economy. The state of Maryland, home to the NIH and Johns Hopkins University, is a powerhouse of research. It stands to lose a staggering $5.4 billion in federal funding under sequestration. That alarming statistic, which comes from a report produced by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was highlighted in a story by the Baltimore Sun. Another article, in The Scientist, cites a United for Medical Research (UMR) report to highlight the impact on California, which stands to lose 33,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic activity if sequestration goes forward.

If we are to help steer our nation in the right direction, researchers must commit to political advocacy. That was the top-line message from a piece published by Dr. Thomas Pollard, professor of cell biology at Yale University, in the journal Cell. The article provides an excellent introduction to the advocacy landscape and ideas for getting more involved – I hope you will circulate this piece to as many researchers as you can!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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