A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dispelling a Few Myths

Dear Research Advocate:

Myth #1: Congress doesn’t pay attention during the August recess. Not true! Many town hall meetings are planned. Since the debt ceiling and appropriations negotiations are coming up in September, the August recess is actually a very important time for advocacy. Use this month to drive the point home that medical research should not be subjected to budget cuts by attending a town hall meeting, meeting with district staff and participating in our social media campaign, #curesnotcuts. Click here for sample messages, or draw from a recent op-ed penned by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair. The op-ed ran in several McClatchy-Tribune newspapers across the country last weekend. In it, he highlights the dangers that indiscriminate budget cuts pose to our medical and health research ecosystem.

Myth #2: It makes no difference when scientists speak out. On the contrary, one of the most effective strategies for promoting and protecting research is public engagement by scientists. It may seem like a waste of time or an unjustifiable obligation, but if scientists don’t speak up about their work, the funding that allows that work may evaporate. In a recent entry on his website, David Eagleman, a PhD researcher who recently received an award from the Society for Neuroscience, makes the case that the benefits (such as inspiring critical thinkers, stemming the flow of bad information, informing public policy and more) clearly outweigh the cost of time to engage in outreach and advocacy. For those ready to engage, some important points and valuable tips on how to communicate clearly and effectively were highlighted in yesterday’s Nature blog. Research!America Board member and AAAS CEO Alan Leshner is among the experts quoted.

* * *Interrupting myth-busting about scientists speaking out to ask for your help in creating more advocacy-savvy scientists! Please spread the word to early-career scientists about a program we are holding October 9 with our partners Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Elsevier, The George Washington University and the Society for Neuroscience. This one-day communications workshop, titled “Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities,” includes panels with media and policy experts, Capitol Hill visits and more. Interested individuals can RSVP online.* * *

Myth #3: Sequestration is paying off. As former Research!America Board member and Friends of Cancer Research President Ellen Sigal notes in a Reuters op-ed, titled “Sequestration as Government Malpractice,” sequestration is “every bit as deadly as the medical kind [of malpractice].” She calls attention to sequestration damage to FDA and, thus, to patients. And as I’ve noted previously, industry-paid user fees were caught up in the sequester, unjustifiably draining billions from FDA. Now there is bipartisan legislation in the House to exempt user fees from sequestration. Senate legislation is also in the works. See the letter we sent to Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) expressing support for their bill, HR 2725. If you’d like to weigh in, we’d be glad to help.

Myth #4: Minority populations are less positive about clinical trials than the population overall. While low enrollment in trials continues to slow down medical progress, it is not for lack of interest by minorities. Our new poll data sheds light on this and other realities of trial participation. The most important consideration for all potential participants is being asked by their physician or other health care professional to join a trial. It’s all about trust. Check out our release and see the poll data here.

Clinical trials is one of the topics we will be discussing during our annual National Health Research Forum. This year’s forum, which will be held September 12 at the Newseum in Washington, DC, features the agency heads of NIH, FDA and CDC, as well as the head of the Innovation Center at CMS and leaders from the corporate, academic and patient advocacy arenas. The theme of the forum is “Straight Talk,” and that’s what you can expect. Registration is open; I hope you will join us.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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