A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A bad year to have a good idea?

Dear Research Advocate,

“2013 is a bad year to have a good idea,” was the bleak statement Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, made about the impact of sequestration in a recent FASEB report. None of us want this year, or this country, to be a bad starting point for good ideas … but that’s what’s at stake. Think about telling someone with a serious illness that this isn’t a good year, or a good decade, for research. Think about telling them that from here on out, it may always be a bad year for a good idea.

Is there hope for turning this around? We have bipartisan support and we have champions; that we need more is a reality, but by no means an impossibility. Cancer research advocates gathered last evening to honor Congresswoman DeLauro (D-CT-03) and Senator Shelby (R-AL). Several other Members of Congress gave inspiring remarks, with an emphasis on adopting a positive, can-do approach, focusing on the local impact of research and stressing the profound and enduring consequences of backtracking. They counseled advocates, “Don’t take no for an answer!” In yesterday’s NIH appropriations hearing, Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) vowed to “work her earrings off” to make sure the agency gets the funding it needs. Strong bipartisan support for research was the byword for the session.

Other Members of Congress are speaking up for research. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Chair of the Congressional Neuroscience Caucus, fired up the One Mind Summit for brain research on Tuesday. He spoke about how one constituent’s advocacy, reinforced by Congressman Patrick Kennedy (a member of the Research!America Board) converted his passive support of research to active advocacy. Advocates’ persistence pays off! Meanwhile, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL-14) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) are circulating a Dear Colleague letter urging continued support for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. It has bipartisan support, garnering more than 70 signatures. And a bipartisan team (Reps. Lamar Smith [R-TX-21] and Zoe Lofgren [D-CA-19] and Sens. Mazie K. Hirono [D-HI] and Roger Wicker [R-MI]) has introduced H.R. 1891 to create an honorary U.S. science laureate. Read the press release here. Bravo to these visionary leaders. Write to your representatives now. If they aren’t already champions, maybe your advocacy will do the trick!

But this week’s letter is not all about congressional advocacy; it’s about necessary change in the science enterprise, as discussed in The American Academy of Arts and Sciences report titled “ARISE II: Unleashing America’s Research & Innovation Enterprise.” The report succinctly contrasts the history of the physical and engineering sciences with that of the life sciences and medicine. The report highlights the critically important role of industry as critical to future partnerships between and within these fields. There is sober reflection that sustaining innovation at this juncture will require “change in many places.” The authors, who include co-chair Keith Yamamoto, PhD, of UCSF (and a Research!America Board member) don’t have in mind change by elected officials; they are speaking first and foremost to the members of the research ecosystem. I hope you will take the time to review this compelling report.

Our Chairman, The Honorable John E. Porter, is featured in Chemical and Engineering News discussing the importance, now more than ever, of scientists educating policy makers about the necessity of research for our future and our economy. Mr. Porter will receive an honorary degree from Morehouse School of Medicine this weekend — well-deserved recognition for his work as an untiring champion of research!

No year should be a bad one for a good idea! Take Mr. Porter’s advice and speak up. Don’t hesitate to contact me if Research!America can be of assistance as you fight the good fight.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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