A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Misleading titles, or misunderstanding of science, or both?

Dear Research Advocate,

House of Representatives Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) proposed legislation, the “High Quality Research Act,” would undermine, rather than achieve, “high quality” in research, since it would create several new hoops for approval of NSF-funded grants. These appear to be based on the mistaken idea that science follows a linear path to a single metric for success or failure. And the bill requires the NSF director to attest in advance to the success of each funded proposal! Letters penned by former NSF directors and National Science Board chairs and former NSF assistant directors warn of the “chilling and detrimental impact” this legislation could have on the current merit-based system. In order to rebuff this outright attack on science, many more advocates must weigh in. The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) will send a letter addressing the concerns of shifting away from “scientific merit” as the ultimate criteria for determining which science to fund. If you are a part of an organization that would like to sign on to this letter, please contact Sam Rankin. Or write your own. In any case, join us in taking action!

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) new bill, H.R. 1724, known as the “Kids First Research Act of 2013,” aims to “eliminate taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns and party conventions and reprogram savings to provide for a 10-year pediatric research initiative …” The bill’s text would limit scientific freedom, as Section 4 is a ban on NIH-funded health economics research. Health economics research is crucial to efficient, effective health care and health care systems, and it also has a significant role to play in ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of research itself. Especially if you perform, benefit from or use findings from health economics research, but also if you care about the future of science, please reach out to your elected officials to call for eliminating Section 4 of H.R. 1724.

Meanwhile the details of sequestration, which we should all remember was never meant to make it into law — it is a symbol of failure, not a show of common sense — continue to emerge. On Wednesday, NIH released the FY13 Fiscal Policy for Grant Awards. To keep grant sizes roughly the same size as in FY12, there will be fewer awards. Detailed in the Mechanism Table, Research Project Grants are down 6.1% and Intramural Research has been cut by more than 4%. Total research grants are down 6.2%. This is further bad news for researchers, students and patients worldwide at a time when NIH grant awards are already at a record low.

NIH Director Francis Collins is asking for your help to spread the word about the impact of cuts to your research. Simply tweet about the impact using the hashtag #NIHSequesterImpact as Dr. Collins’ office collects and shares these stories to bring attention to the damage of sequestration. Congress needs to fix the sequestration mistake, and we need to convince them to. Speak out, even if it’s outside your comfort zone to do so!

Speaking of getting outside your comfort zone, this was my topic in the commencement address I delivered to the medical school class of 2013 at the University at Buffalo last Friday. See our blog post on my address here.


Mary Woolley

One response

  1. […] neurological research on wounded soldiers.  What that manipulative aside really reveals is that Cantor and Smith propose to move all funding to select programs that they define as high priorities.  This breaks from the culture of anonymous academic peer-review that now governs grant decisions […]

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