A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Sequestration will not produce a growth economy

Dear Research Advocate,

Sequestration is barreling down on us. With the clock ticking to March 1, there are disturbing indications that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are prepared to let sequestration move forward. It sounds much too painless to make cuts to a category called “discretionary” — the very word invites belt-tightening — not to mention that this blanket term masks the importance of the programs that would again be damaged (the Budget Control Act took the first swipe at them, and the fiscal cliff agreement, the second). We need to unleash the power of advocacy to put human faces on the rhetoric. We know the reasons research can’t be cut without severe consequences, but do your senators and your representative? It is especially timely to stress the point, made more critical as we heard the news about a decline in GDP, that boosting research investment catalyzes a growth economy.

In this time of critical congressional decision-making, we are very pleased  to report that two champions for research, Senator Burr (R-NC) and Senator Casey (D-PA), will join us at our March 13 Advocacy Awards dinner to receive the Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. Senators Burr and Casey, have — individually and as a bipartisan team — worked extremely hard to promote a robust medical research pipeline in the U.S. and to ensure patients receive new, safe and effective treatments and technologies on a timely basis. Please contact Carol Kennedy if you would like more information about the Awards dinner. Click here to see a full listing of this year’s honorees. I do hope you can join us!

The Huffington Post carried two excellent articles in support of research funding. Dr. Glenn D. Braunstein of Cedars-Sinai describes the impact of NIH research and urges Congress to avoid the “blunt ax” of sequestration. Dr. William Talman from the University of Iowa writes of the eroding buying power of NIH, which shortchanges all Americans on the return on investment and better health that result from discovery. Inside the Beltway, The Washington Post published a piece by Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, urging Congress to “invest in what’s next.” Dr. Jackson describes the profound impact that advances in science and technology have had on our lives, many of which would have been impossible without federal support.

While the U.S. is contemplating cutbacks to science, Japan is the latest nation to announce multibillion dollar research investments as part of a concerted plan to jumpstart their innovation economy. This is a significant reversal from three years ago when Japanese lawmakers proposed deep cuts to science as part of a budget control plan. Proposals then led to protests from renowned Japanese researchers — a lesson for those who wish to keep funding for research growing even in an era of austerity. The change in the attitude of policy makers, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, can be surmised from his recent quote, “Of course we must aim for number one.” It’s time for stakeholders in the U.S. to do more to prevent counterproductive cuts to our own research enterprise and to assure we maintain our global leadership. I recently participated in a panel convened by the Parkinson’s Action Network that brought out the value, as well as the how-to, of advocacy. You can watch the just-released video here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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