Dear Research Advocate,
Congress has passed a spending bill for what remains of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. Preliminary agency funding levels have been reported by Nature. The appropriations process remains important for making up some small amount of the ground lost to sequestration, but as long as sequestration remains the law of the land, annual cuts to NIH, FDA and our nation’s other health research agencies are all but assured; and with it, the insidious ripple effect of damage to grantees, vendors, and the pharma, bio and device industries that partner with researchers to develop the products patients await. That’s the bottom line. We must remind our representatives that sequestration is not some “new normal” we will adjust to, it is a costly mistake! We must remind them that the longer it takes to correct that mistake, the more damage will be done.
As this letter is written, the Senate is debating a budget resolution for FY14. One or more amendments related to NIH are likely to be considered. While it is unlikely any of these amendments will result in increased funding next year – they are likely to be symbolic in nature – we should not dismiss them as unimportant. Singling out medical research funding for consideration and discussion during the budget debate lays the groundwork for more concrete action going forward. As does Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz’s (D-PA) introduction of a stand-alone bill, the “Inspiring Scientific Research and Innovation Act,” calling for a stunning $3 billion increase to NIH funding. Prospects for this bill are slim, but if enough advocates urge their representatives to fashion similarly bold statements of support of this nature, we can turn this around.
American priorities and American progress are on the line more than ever, yet Congress persists in acting like political parties scoring points instead of conducting the public’s business. This point and more were addressed by Research!America’s chair, The Honorable John Porter, at our Advocacy Awards dinner. Many of you have asked to see this speech, which was highlighted in Roll Call. Please contact policy makers to speak out against sequestration; better yet – contact them today and then go visit them in-district next week while they are on recess. Many of our members have or will soon engage in “Hill Day” visits with many advocates – and the timing could not be better. Our fact sheet on sequestration as well as the flyer we developed calling for cures, not cuts, are both good leave-behinds. Developing new champions is one goal of those Hill Days, I know. Yesterday, in partnership with United for Medical Research, we held a breakfast meeting for freshman Members of Congress to meet NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins provided an overview of the opportunities for research and highlighted the challenges facing NIH, including sequestration. Please be sure to thank those who attended and use the opportunity to reinforce the local case for research.
Making the local case is equally if not more important in district as well as on Capitol Hill. This is where the media can amplify the story. Dismal news about the impact of sequestration on our nation’s world class universities is in fact being heard nationwide. Johns Hopkins University’s Dr. Carol Greider, a former Research!America Board member and Nobel laureate, was quoted in Reuters about the cutbacks her lab has faced, which have prevented her from hiring promising young researchers. An article in Fox News cites concerns from Research!America Board member Dr. Larry Shapiro, who is witnessing anxiety among young researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Arthur Levine of the University of Pittsburgh writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the staffing cuts and job losses that could occur, with some of the worst impacts hitting young investigators. The media remains hungry for stories about the impact of these cuts. Write an op-ed or pitch a story to your state or local paper. As always, let us know how we can help.
April 8 is coming right up. If you haven’t already planned to join the Rally for Research here in Washington, make it a priority. As a measure of the level of urgency of speaking out for research and against sequestration, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is, for the first time ever, shutting down their annual research conference so that all 18,000 attendees can participate. And they have extended the Rally widely, to encompass all research and stakeholders in research, to present a comprehensive perspective of health research. This is the kind of game-changing advocacy called for right now. Our Board Chair, Congressman John Porter, will be speaking at the event along with other advocates. The challenges and opportunities before us demand not just a team effort, but a HUGE team effort. Lend your talent and your time. We’ll drive across the goal line together.