A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: When “kicking the can down the road” is better than the alternative

Dear Research Advocate,

Medical research advocates are being heard by those urging a halt to across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to go into effect March 1; your voices are being picked up in the media and echoed by decision makers. But as the deadline approaches, no progress has been made, with many Members of Congress insisting that sequestration go forward. As much as we, and the public at large, have railed against Congress when it “kicks the can down the road,” this is a time to call for just that! Delaying sequestration would create the opportunity (of course, not the promise) of a “grand bargain” before the continuing resolution ends March 27. (In order to avoid shutting down the government, Congress must act before that date. It may be another case of kick-the-can, extending funding until the end of the fiscal year on September 30.) What advocates must push for right now is to eliminate sequestration in favor of prioritization and pragmatism. Email your representatives, sign this petition from AAAS, and stop sequestration. When you reach out to your representatives, use our revised fact sheet and make sure to highlight how sequester would impact your priorities. For other examples, see the just-released fact sheet on sequestration from The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) as well as Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s report.

The House subcommittee that sets funding levels for NIH, CDC and AHRQ wants to hear from you! On March 13, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee is holding a public witness hearing. Requests to testify are due by Monday, February 25. This is an excellent opportunity to make your voice heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill. (Members of Research!America, let us know if we can help draft a request letter!)

The New York Times reported Monday that the White House is planning to launch a decade-long project led by the NIH to unravel the core functions of the brain. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins spoke about the Brain Activity Map on PBS’s Newshour last evening. Scientists are hoping that the project will provide $300 million in funding per year for a decade or more, with the end goal of understanding what goes wrong in the brain and how this leads to some of the most insidious and expensive diseases plaguing Americans and the world. The price tag is daunting, and it will be important to ensure this project doesn’t supplant other critical research, but there is no doubt that cracking the code to the numerous diseases of the brain would be a breathtaking advance in modern medicine.

Speaking of spectacular research, the richest research prize ever has been announced. The winners will receive a prize of $3 million each in recognition of their high impact research. This headline-grabbing announcement helps put faces on science and remind the country of its value, perhaps inspiring young Americans to pursue a career in research. But awards are not enough to stop the onslaught of growing public health threats like Alzheimer’s and other diseases, especially when many policy makers are prepared to allow sequestration to occur. We need to reinvest in our innovative capacity, not cut it off at a time of immense opportunity for health breakthroughs and research-driven economic growth.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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