A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Are we entering “A Dark Age for Science in America”?

Dear Research Advocate:

The Commerce Department’s report of the U.S. trade deficit narrowing to its lowest level since October 2009 is welcome news, but the devil is in the details. Despite the economic progress, our trade deficit with China is nearly as large as our overall trade deficit. Put that together with the fact that China is rigorously investing in R&D while our nation stifles it, and you can see the handwriting on the wall. U.S. export capabilities will be stymied while China’s are bolstered. It’s not a recipe for a strong and stable economy going forward.

China is not the only nation steadily increasing investment in R&D, taking a page from what used to be the U.S. playbook. As I shared with Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic for his article today, “If federal funding continues to decline, our leadership status in the short-term will be tenuous at best.” Research!America’s polling on international competitiveness shows that Americans are acutely aware of our declining leadership status: More than half believe that a country other than the U.S. will be the global leader in science and technology by 2020. A quarter of respondents say that China will be the next world leader.

Sam Stein of The Huffington Post portrays the consequences of short-sighted budgets for science. His story’s dramatic headline — “Sequestration Ushers In A Dark Age For Science In America” — is illustrated with economic points and also stresses what may be lost in terms of scientific discovery. Claire Pomeroy, MD, president of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, reinforces the sentiment in her piece on the importance of research advocacy, also in The Huffington Post yesterday. Please join us in being sure your elected representatives receive the message carried in these articles, and then urge everyone in your networks to do the same!

On the congressional front, Members are holding town halls (be there!) and are at work crafting new legislation. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) plans to introduce the Next Generation Research Act, which will contribute to the conversation about the allocation of federal research dollars. I hope that by bringing attention to the issue of medical research, this legislation will help build momentum for increased funding. We will monitor the bill, keeping that goal in mind.

Seeking to turn the tide in innovation’s favor, Jackson County, MO, is considering raising its sales tax by a half cent annually for 20 years in order to raise revenues for medical research in the Kansas City area. As I’ve mentioned before, our polling shows that a majority of Americans are willing to pay additional taxes — $1 more per week, which amounts to approximately $4.4 billion annually — if they knew those dollars were being used to fund medical research.

A reminder: We are hosting a communications workshop for early-career researchers on Wednesday, October 9, with our partners Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Elsevier, The George Washington University and the Society for Neuroscience. This one-day event, “Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities,” includes panels with media and policy experts, Capitol Hill visits and more. I hope you will encourage postdocs to join us for this exciting event. Interested individuals can RSVP online or call 703-739-2577 for more information.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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