A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time to ramp up media attention to what’s at stake

Dear Research Advocate,

As our nation edges toward the fiscal cliff, the White House and House Republican leadership have been trading offers. The most recent Republican plan includes additional cuts to discretionary spending — another $300 billion. These newly proposed discretionary cuts are significantly less than the across-the-board approach of sequestration, but suggest that — absent a strong shift in the winds — more discretionary spending cuts will be part of any final, compromise plan. It is highly unlikely that any final plan will be hammered out until next year; the president indicated as much in remarks he made Tuesday. The best guess is that policy makers will coalesce around a small package that is designed to hold back the tidal wave of fiscal problems until the new Congress is in place, at which point sequestration will again become a possibility. Regardless of what scenario plays out — and no scenario is anywhere near certain — we must keep up the pressure.

The recent increase in media requests for stories of families, patients and researchers who will be directly impacted by the fiscal cliff is a positive development and an opportunity to increase awareness. Can you help identify individuals who can tell compelling stories now, before decisions are made, and proactively pitch stories to national and local media? You can do this on your own via social media and also work with the communications office of your society, association or institution. And if you or your organization have examples tracing federally funded research to private sector development, write an op-ed or letter to the editor and shine a spotlight on them! I’ll say it again — this is the time to speak out.

Here are a couple of great examples of recent media attention: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published an op-ed by Dr. Larry Shapiro, Research!America Board member and dean of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He writes about the need for a bipartisan solution to deficit-reduction, one that does not hurt our health and economy. In The Tennessean, Dr. Jeff Balser of the School of Medicine at Vanderbilt writes about the chilling effect sequestration would have on biomedical progress, while discouraging a generation from pursuing careers in research. Columbia University Medical Center convened a press conference with congressional Reps. Nadler, Rangel and Maloney to urge policy makers to reject cuts to the NIH budget. Consider organizing a local press event — as is frequently said, all politics is local, and the best arguments for saving research are local, too.

Ellie Dehoney, our VP for Policy & Programs, was recently quoted in a CNN article, “10 ways falling off the fiscal cliff could hurt your health,” describing the impact of sequestration on vital medical research programs. Forbes has run an op-ed highlighting how the fiscal cliff would harm our innovation economy. The research community’s message is resonating, and all of us need to make sure all policy makers are hearing it, over and over again. Send your elected representatives an email TODAY.

We can have influence even when it may seem unlikely, simply by speaking up and relentlessly making our case. Click here to access a toolkit of advocacy ideas. Several organizations are utilizing YouTube to make the case — see examples here: American Society of Hematology, American Chemical Society. And Stand With Science is a student advocacy organization looking for signatures for their letter opposing sequestration. On December 10, Research!America will participate in the NDD (non-defense discretionary) Coalition’s day of action. You can, too — find more info on how to participate here — if you tweet on the day of action, be sure to use the hashtag #NoMoreCuts!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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