Dear Research Advocate,
With the world listening, President Obama acknowledged the importance of science, STEM education and research to our nation’s economic competitiveness and, more generally, to the future our children face. Many Republicans have voiced similar views. While it is heartening that policy makers on both sides of the aisle believe in research, they also must cut dollars from the federal budget. The president noted this in his speech and also mentioned the need to tame rising health care costs. The intersection of research, rising health care costs, and deficit reduction is the exact spot where advocates need to jump in. As policy makers grapple with how to control health care costs, will they treat funding for biomedical and health research as part of the problem or part of the solution? As they consider deficit reduction, will the notion of investing in research as a job-producing, industry-sustaining, economic growth strategy even enter the discussions, or will research dollars be swept away as part of sequestration or ever more stringent caps on discretionary spending? The answer to both of those questions is the same: It’s up to us.
If you haven’t weighed in, consider it D-day. If you haven’t tried to recruit new advocates, now’s the time. Many, many more Americans must speak up and let their federal representatives know that medical progress is vitally important. Many, many more of us need to make the case that research is a deficit reduction strategy and essential if we are going to tackle the direct and indirect costs of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We must convince policy makers that while it may seem easier to make across-the-board cuts than to prioritize, this is counterproductive. Our polling shows that Americans don’t want the unintended consequences of across-the-board cuts. And they want biomedical and health research to be a priority. The possibility of cuts that incapacitate our health research agencies is real. Meanwhile, countries in Europe and Asia are continuing to boost investment. Funding rates for federally funded biomedical science in Germany, for example, are above 25% — quite a gap from the NIH, which is funding at historically low rates right now. All of our collective efforts now in these next few weeks — or the lack thereof — will have dramatic and lasting consequences.
An advantage we have and must maintain in the fight to save research is that support remains a bipartisan issue, championed by Republicans and Democrats alike. And that bipartisan support is long-standing, with several former Members of Congress continuing their leadership. Research!America Chair John Porter was highlighted as a Republican champion of science during his tenure in the House in a recent article in The Atlantic. Last week, former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) wrote an opinion piece pointing out that more than half of post-WWII economic growth can be attributed to technological innovation. Cite that fact in an email to the leaders of Congress, who are in the driver’s seat right now; send a copy to your representatives. You can personalize and send an email to members by clicking here.