Dear Research Advocate:
This week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to increase NIH funding by $307 million in FY14, an increase largely due to the unwavering support of Labor-HHS subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin and Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski. The Senate bill also increases funding for the CDC by $1.6 billion over FY13. It is important to note that the Senate bill does not include sequestration reductions, but Mikulski has vowed to fight these dangerous, continued cuts. (See my brief statement on this week’s Senate action.) We all realize that these proposed funding levels are not adequate to capitalize on the current opportunity in science and respond robustly to the needs of patients and their families, but they are significantly better than what the House has in store. The overall funding level in the House Labor-HHS bill, which includes NIH, CDC and AHRQ, is 26% less than the Senate’s proposal, leaving the outcome of any kind of budget deal bleak indeed. “Compromise” between the two houses would be significantly worse than a continuing resolution, and sequestration is still in place. In short, the welcome action of the Senate is not likely to become the law of the land. We have work to do!
Congress can be an insular place, as evidenced by cuts policy makers are weighing for research and other basic government functions. Outside Congress, the implications of underfunding are all too real. Take the story of Navy veteran and cancer patient Bryan Fazio, who exemplifies American values and whose story is a testament to the importance of continued research. We may lose this amazing young man, but with continued research we can save others struggling with this disease. Please join me in contacting Members of Congress and urging them to support robust funding for health and research during the FY14 appropriations process and beyond.
Lawmakers across the pond recognize the importance of investing in research. British Chancellor George Osborne announced a capital investment commitment of £1.1 billion ($1.661 billion) a year in the science budget through the end of the decade, influenced by the strong case made by the U.K. National Academies for the economic benefits of research (see report). The U.K., under a conservative government and with an austerity budget, has made a national commitment to science and research. They are not alone. Australia’s federal government recently announced a $13.5 million ($12.42 million U.S.) investment in research to improve primary care, including a research partnership with Canada. Other nations are following suit and ramping up research; isn’t it ironic that the U.S. wrote the playbook but now appears to be ceding global leadership? I don’t think it is a choice the American people are making. Based on our polling data and a number of recent radio interviews around the nation, I have come to the conclusion that Americans are taking for granted that policy makers are giving research a high priority, and since policy makers are not hearing from their constituents, they are not thinking twice about cutting research as part of deficit reduction. People are surprised to find out that research isn’t the priority it once was; surprised to learn about cuts that have already occurred; and openly shocked to hear about further cuts being proposed. I implore you to join me in setting the record straight and connecting the dots for people you know who might be taking research funding for granted. We must inform Americans and then translate the shock of understanding into advocacy. We have been urging more Americans to speak out via Twitter using the hashtag #curesnotcuts. Please join in.