Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Research Matters Communications Workshop, October 9

Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities

REGISTER HERE.

Scientists, journalists and policy makers. What do they all have in common? They all are trained (in very different ways) to ask the hard questions while serving the public interest. Often the lines of communications between these three professions are weak or, sometimes, non-existent. A greater understanding between them is needed to demonstrate the value and the return on investment of basic biomedical research.

On October 9, 2013, join Research!America, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Elsevier, The George Washington University and the Society for Neuroscience for a workshop designed to enhance the ability of early-career scientists to effectively communicate their research to various audiences and become stronger advocates.

Plenary session speaker:

  • Christie Nicholson, lecturer at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

Moderators:

  • Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University
  • Debra Lappin, JD, principal, FaegreBD Consulting and Research!America Board member

Panelists:

  • Cara Altimus, PhD, executive board member, Johns Hopkins Postdoc Association
  • Nick Bath, JD, senior health policy advisor, Senate HELP Committee
  • Patrick Carroll, legislative director, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
  • Susan Heavey, health correspondent, Reuters
  • Patricia Knight, founder, Knight Capitol Consultants, LLC; former chief of staff, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Jonathan Moreno, PhD, editor-in-chief, Science Progress blog; senior fellow, Center for American Progress
  • Nancy Shute, health and medicine reporter, NPR
  • Dan Smith, JD, principal, The Sheridan Group; founder and former president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

The program includes a plenary session by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University; two panel discussions with leaders in science, health communications, journalism, public health and public policy; and a session with top Elsevier editors on techniques for getting published in scientific journals.

Register for half off the admission price now through Friday, September 27: $37.50 for participants affiliated with Research!America members and $75 for participants not affiliated with Research!America members. (If you’ve already registered, we will offer a partial refund.)

Registration deadline has been extended to Friday, September 27.

For more information, visit www.researchamerica.org/communicationsworkshop

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New Poll Shows Minority Populations Support Clinical Trials to Improve Health of Others but Participation Remains Low Among African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians

Low Percentage Hear About Clinical Trials from Health Care Providers

 ALEXANDRIA, Va.—July  31, 2013—Altruism is a strong motivating factor for clinical trial participation in the general population and even more so among several minority groups. A significant percentage of African-Americans (61%), Hispanics (57%) and Asians (50%) say it’s very important to participate as a volunteer in a clinical trial to improve the health of others, compared to 47% of non-Hispanic whites, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America.

These findings are tempered by the reality that participation remains disturbingly low among all groups. When asked if they or someone in their family has ever participated in a clinical trial, only 17% of Hispanics, 15% of African-Americans, 15% of non-Hispanic whites and 11% of Asians said yes.

Only about a quarter of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians say they have heard about clinical trials from their doctor or other health care provider. The percentage is even lower among non-Hispanic whites (19%). On the positive side, a strong majority — 75% of Hispanics, 72% of African-Americans, 71% of non-Hispanic whites and 65% of Asians — say they would likely participate in a clinical trial if recommended by a doctor.

“The poll reveals a willingness among minorities to participate in clinical trials to improve quality of health care, but enrollment remains stubbornly low,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “We must continue to strive toward reaching all segments of the population to boost the level of participation in order to further medical progress.”

Lack of trust is a major reason that individuals don’t participate in clinical trials, according to more than half of African-Americans (61%), Hispanics (52%), Asians (51%) and non-Hispanic whites (54%). In fact, 40% of African-Americans believe people are enrolled in clinical trials without being told, compared to 36% of Hispanics, 35% of Asians and 27% of non-Hispanic whites who are of this opinion. When asked how important the competence and reputation of people of the institution conducting the research would be in the decision to participate as a volunteer in a clinical trial, 73% of African-Americans, 66% of Hispanics and 66% of Asians said very important, compared to 72% of non-Hispanic whites, reinforcing the importance of trust among all groups.  Continue reading →

Member Spotlight: Harris Search Associates

By Jeffrey Harris, founder and Managing Partner of Harris Search Associates, an IIC members Partners firm where he leads the firm’s Higher Education, Academic Medicine and General Management practices.

JHarrisWith our practice focused on identifying and attracting leaders to support the growth of clients in the areas of research, science, engineering, academic medicine and commercial enterprises, active involvement in Research!America allows us to remain current with landscape of change taking place in international research.  We value our membership in Research!America because its focus helps create a critical mass advocacy that alone we could never have.

Much of our work is centered on the active recruitment of researchers and research administration from around the world that shapes the advancement of academic medicine and medical research.  We view health and medical research as the leading agent for discoveries, inventions and innovations that transform lives and communities.

We are in the talent business.  We assist universities, medical centers and other research organizations attract the very best minds to administer and undertake research that accelerate discoveries, new inventions, and create the innovations that advance the health and well-being of billions of people.

In recent years, we have helped recruit vice chancellors and vice presidents of research for major universities, endowed professorships in diabetes research and medical imaging, administrators to ensure the protection of human subjects of research and chief information officers who provide critical IT infrastructure and support.  And, we are reassured by the availability of outstanding individuals from America and elsewhere in the world with the intellect, experience, and skills required for contemporary research. Continue reading →

Cuts in research funding undermine medical innovation

Op-ed by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America Chair and former U.S. Representative (1980 – 2001) published in McClatchy-Tribune newspapers, including the Great Falls Tribune, News & Observer, Times Herald Record and Billings Gazette.

John Edward PorterThe health of Americans and future generations is at risk. This seems incredulous given our track record in medical discoveries that improved health care and saved lives over the years. But our nation’s research ecosystem is now in a precarious state as a result of federal policies and proposals that continue to undermine medical innovation.

Sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts for federal agencies, is a self-inflicted wound on our country and the pain is acutely felt by patients who cannot afford unnecessary delays in the development of new therapies and cures for their illnesses.

In short, the entire country is hurting and as much as we would like to believe medical progress will continue unabated, we must accept the inevitable consequence of sequestration and other federal actions that muzzle research and innovation – needless deaths, economic decline and challenges to our global competitiveness.

The current political environment lends itself to ideological battles that ignore national priorities. Those battles are draining the budgets of federal agencies that are critical to the sustainment of basic research and private sector innovation. Medical research, which has received overwhelming bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, is now caught in the crossfire of extreme partisanship and illogical decision-making. Continue reading →

CDC monitoring for stomach bug in United States

Cyclospora cayetanensis Photo credit: CDC

                                       Cyclospora cayetanensis                                     Photo credit: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring a new stomach bug that has hit several states. The one-celled parasite known as Cyclospora, which causes diarrhea, stomach cramps and other symptoms normally associated with a viral stomach bug, has sickened hundreds of people across the country.

As of this week, the CDC has been notified of 285 cases of Cyclospora infection in 11 states including Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Minnesota and Ohio. At least 18 persons reportedly have been hospitalized in three states with most of the illnesses surfacing between mid-June through early July. The cause is not yet clear but health experts say the bug possibly came from contaminated food or water.  The illness doesn’t spread from person to person. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Uncertainty calls out for advocacy

Dear Research Advocate:

Budget Uncertainty Deepens
The House Appropriations Committee has postponed this week’s scheduled consideration of the Labor-Health and Human Services (Labor-H) funding measure. A New York Times article indicated that the bill protects NIH funding; but, given how low the overall spending number is for Labor-H, “protected” is most likely interpreted as the NIH being cut less than other agencies, themselves highly valued. The distance between the Senate (passed) and House (estimated) Labor-H appropriations — in excess of 20% — sets the stage for another continuing resolution (CR). What actually does happen next is uncertain, which is why advocacy is essential.

The Devil’s in the Details
There are so many health priorities on the line in the not-yet-official House Labor-H bill. Perennial threats are back on the table, including wholly unjustifiable underfunding of CDC, the elimination of AHRQ and PCORI, a prohibition on funding for health economics research at NIH, and more micromanagement of the NIH as well. If any or all of these issues strikes a chord with you, let us help you write a letter to your representative asking them to represent your views in Congress. Email info@researchamerica.org — one of us will get right back to you. Continue reading →

Cuts to NIH research squeezes young scientists out

Op-ed by Abigail Schindler, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-leader of the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy published in The Seattle Times.

Abigail1When I think about not being a scientist anymore my heart hurts. But sadly, due to continued budget cuts to biomedical research, within the next few years that is most likely exactly what I will be — no longer a scientist, no longer a researcher searching for cures for disease.

And I am not alone. The number of young scientists being forced out of basic biomedical research in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate, and when this next generation of scientists leaves, it is not coming back.

Like me, these are early career scientists trained in the United States by U.S. tax dollars. We are scientists whose life goal has been to one day have our own research program at an academic institution committed to the search for breakthroughs and cures. Yet because of these budget cuts, catchphrases such as the “brain drain” are proving true. This is a bad omen for U.S. global leadership in biomedical research and the future health and wellness of our nation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation’s premier biomedical research agency and the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. Despite numerous public polls showing strong support among Americans for government funding of basic biomedical research, NIH’s budget was cut by $1.5 billion this year, or 5 percent, from $31 billion. Continue reading →

Medical Research Saves Lives, Provides Hope and Fuels our Economy

We NEED CURES, NOT CUTS

Sequestration’s arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts to defense and non-defense spending have ravaged (and will continue to ravage) our research enterprise. Sequestration and the inability of Congress to pass a budget will dramatically reduce funding for medical research and critical public health functions for years to come. Funding cuts are stopping highly promising research in its tracks, squandering exciting new potential for treatments and cures for millions of Americans who are waiting for them.

We can’t let this continue. Deficit reduction is important, but there are ways to achieve it that do not compromise American lives and American competitiveness. Arbitrary budget cuts that abandon medical research are wrong. Tell Congress: WE NEED CURES, NOT CUTS!

Take action now.

The Science Policy Group at the University of California, San Francisco

By Dai Horiuchi, PhD and Bradley Webb, PhD, co-leaders of the Science Advocacy Subgroup and organizing members of the Science Policy Group at the  University of California, San Francisco (a Research!America member).

UCSFFBThe Science Policy Group (SPG) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is determined to take advantage of this crisis situation brought about by the sequester to speak up for the future of academic biomedical science in America.  We’re composed of a dedicated group of life sciences graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Our primary mission is to educate ourselves as well as the general public about policy issues and to take actions for the advancement of science and human health.  The SPG is composed of five subgroups; Science Advocacy, Science Education, Science Outreach, Science Reform, and Health Care Reform. The Advocacy Subgroup was formed in response to the sequester, the across-the-board budget cut, which has significantly decreased scientific funding since it went into effect earlier this year. It appeared that only those PIs and postdoctoral scholars whose federal grant applications (i.e. RO1s, K-awards, etc) were under consideration were aware of the potential consequences of the sequester. However, a majority of trainees had no knowledge of what the sequester entailed. It was not until grant applicants were unusually delayed and an abnormal number of grants, scholarships and fellowships were denied funding that people started paying attention. Continue reading →

The Research and Development Tax Credit Creates Good Jobs and Supports Research

Tell Congress to Make it Permanent.

The R&D tax credit, a proven engine of economic development, was created more than 30 years ago and spurs innovation by companies of every size across every sector. For medical research and development, the tax credit not only creates jobs, but it enables critical R&D focused on a host of disabling and deadly illnesses. However, as it stands, the tax credit needs to be reauthorized by Congress and the president every year. This creates uncertainty for businesses and hinders the full economic benefit of this incentive. Strengthening the tax credit by making it permanent is vital to continuing our nation’s commitment to research.

The Senate Finance Committee Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT), and Ranking Member, Orrin Hatch (R-UT), are soliciting comments from their Senate colleagues as the committee embarks on tax reform. Starting with a “blank slate,” they hope to rebuild our nation’s tax code in a fair and simplified manner, including only those special provisions which grow the economy or promote policy goals. The R&D tax credit meets both of these tests by fueling economic activity and spurring medical progress. Ask your senator to push for inclusion of a permanent R&D tax credit in the revised tax system.

Take action now.

Deaths in Women from Prescription Painkiller Overdoses Skyrockets Between 1999 and 2010

VitalSigns_logo-300pxA Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month shows a staggering 400% increase in the number of women who died from a prescription painkiller overdose from 1999 to 2010. The rate of men’s deaths in that same category, meanwhile, rose 265% — a depressing number in its own right.

But the 400% increase in women means that in 2010, according to the CDC’s calculations, 6,600 women lost their lives because of a prescription painkiller overdose; that’s 18 women every day. That’s four times the number of deaths attributed to cocaine and heroin combined.

And once every 3 minutes, an ER somewhere in America sees a woman for problems resulting from opioid misuse or abuse.

“Stopping this epidemic in women – and men – is everyone’s business,” Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the CDC, said in a press release. “Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs.”

Polling commissioned by Research!America in March helps contextualize the issue. In the poll, 85% of respondents expressed their concern about the potential for misuse of prescription painkillers; of those, half said they were very concerned. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time for a New Tax Code

Dear Research Advocate:

Our elected representatives know they must make hard tax and entitlement reform decisions, and, for the sake of the nation, ensure those decisions foster economic growth and societal progress. Part of that equation is federal funding for medical research sufficient to capitalize on unprecedented scientific opportunity and tackle urgent threats like Alzheimer’s Disease. As I’ve highlighted before, a majority of Americans say they are willing to pay additional taxes — $1 more per week (which amounts to approximately $4.4 billion annually) — if they knew those dollars were funding medical research. The public is on our side with their wallets as well as their hearts and minds!

Speaking of taxes, the Senate Finance Committee is working on a tax reform package, and Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) are soliciting comments from their Senate colleagues to rebuild the tax code starting from a blank state. One component that definitely should be included is the R&D tax credit. This credit is a proven engine of economic development that spurs innovation. It creates jobs and supports critical medical research that otherwise would not be conducted. However, as it stands, the credit must be reauthorized each year. This is not only absurdly inefficient, it is counterproductive since the uncertainty it creates reduces the credit’s stimulative effect on R&D. First and foremost, of course, it is critical that the R&D tax credit be included in the tax package, but it is also extremely important to make the credit permanent to amplify it as a catalyst to economic and medical progress. Click here to view the letter Research!America sent in support of the tax credit, and click here to urge your senators to work with the committee to include the R&D tax credit in the tax package and finally make it permanent. Continue reading →

Budget sequestration could soon cost us in lives

An excerpt of an op-ed by Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH, professor of the Earle Mack School of Law & Drexel School of Public Health published in Philly.com.

Robert I. Field

Robert I. Field, PhD, JD, MPH

What do we get when Congress cuts federal spending across-the-board? Does it bring lower taxes, smaller deficits, and less bureaucracy?

How about worse health care, less medical innovation, and lost lives?

The budget sequester that Congress enacted in 2011 began to take effect this year with spending cuts for most federal programs. So far, the majority of Americans have seen little change. Some may even applaud the idea of forcing the federal government to make due with less.

But the sequester is about to exert an especially sinister effect that lies just outside of public view. It could cripple medical research.

The National Institutes of Health is the largest single source of biomedical research funding in the world. It supports work at most universities in the United States and at many around the world.

That’s not just important to the physicians and researchers who work at those institutions. It’s vitally important to everyone. NIH funding stands behind the development of almost every major drug that has emerged over the past 50 years. You can see the impact of this agency every time you open your medicine cabinet. It has also brought us countless medical devices and procedures. And led to 83 Nobel prizes. Continue reading →

Advocacy Opportunities at 40,000 Feet

By William (Bill) R. Brinkley, Ph.D., TAMEST’s 2012 President

Brinkley 2012 PresidentSometimes you find luck sitting by your side at the most opportune of moments.  For example, what would you do if you suddenly found yourself seated next to a key member of the U.S. Congress on a two and a half hour flight to Washington, D.C.?  Be prepared, it could happen to you!

If you are a frequent traveler like me, you probably prefer to read, daydream or sleep on most flights.  But what would you do if you suddenly recognized that your seat mate was a VIP—say, a key member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives?  You might recognize it as a terrific opportunity to put in a good word for particular issues of great importance to you or society.  Say for instance, an increase in funding for biomedical research or pending legislation for another cause that might impact your future and that of your co-workers and colleagues.

This actually happened to me a few years ago as a biomedical researcher and president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) advocating for a campaign to double the funding of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   At the time, I was traveling to Washington, D.C. frequently to visit key members of the legislature to encourage support for the “doubling” as it came to be known.  One key member of the House of Representatives, Congressman Tom DeLay was thought to be a hopeless holdout—but a key individual to get on our side.  As the Majority Whip, DeLay earned the nickname “The Hammer” for his enforcement of party discipline in close votes and his reputation for wreaking political vengeance on opponents. After making numerous unsuccessful attempts to get an audience with DeLay, I finally gave up! Continue reading →

When it comes to prevention of chronic disease, what one policy change would have the greatest impact on moving from “promise” to “results?”

by Mary Woolley, Research!America President and CEO. This entry was originally posted as a guest contribution to PhRMA’s Conversations forum.

mary-woolley-webA shift in attitude among elected officials is necessary if this nation is to succeed in combating disease and stemming the rise of health care costs. Federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies that conduct medical and health research has not kept pace with scientific opportunity, jeopardizing our ability to find cures for deadly disease and to maintain our global competitive edge. Medical research has not risen to the upper ranks of our nation’s priorities in the halls of Congress; advocacy from stakeholders is critical to changing this.

Underfunded federal agencies that should be providing the catalyst for private sector innovation to help bend the cost curve are instead forced to cut and cut. Even as federal funding diminishes, the burden of disease rages on, exacting a tremendous financial and emotional toll on patients and families stressed by learning of delays in the next phase of promising research that could one day lead to cures. And not only are our elected officials giving too little attention to key federal agencies, they are not prioritizing policy-making that will incentivize the private sector to accelerate the development of new treatments and therapies for patients. There is a lot of talk about the value of innovation, but not a lot of action to stimulate it.   Continue reading →