A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: America can do better

Dear Research Advocate:

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the clarion call for equality for all Americans brings to mind the work still to be done to address health disparities. For example, cancer incidence and death rates are significantly higher for African-Americans than for all other ethnic groups, and Hispanic and African-American adults are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have diabetes than white adults. Our polling shows that nearly 75% of Americans believe it is imperative to conduct research to understand and combat health disparities. As a community of advocates, we need to press policy makers to keep this unacceptable gap in health care and health outcomes in their sights. America can do better.

As September nears, Congress returns to Washington with a looming fiscal debate. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reports that the debt ceiling will need to be raised earlier than anticipated, possibly as soon as mid-October. The urgency of this deadline takes away any buffer time on which congressional leadership may have hoped to rely. A funding measure for FY14, sequestration, the debt limit, reforms and a government shutdown may well be contenders in the upcoming debate. It will certainly keep advocates for medical and health research busy — fighting sequestration, pushing for greater research funding, pressing for the exemption of user fees from sequestration (should the across-the-board spending cuts remain in place), and even weighing in on the impact of tax and entitlement reform on medical innovation, although it is unlikely that such a reform effort would happen now.

A letter to the editor is a great way to garner press coverage of the critical importance of medical research during this fiscal debate. A recent letter to the editor in The Gainesville Sun, written by three researchers at the University of Florida Diabetes Center of Excellence, made terrific use of the “Cures Not Cuts” campaign as they advocated for needed funding. During the month of August, we have been using this hashtag, #curesnotcuts, on Facebook and Twitter, and we hope you will continue to use it in your messaging.

Another tool to consider using for advocacy is the new study released by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), which provides survey results confirming the impact of sequestration on the scientific community. If you are looking for additional data to supplement your advocacy efforts, please do not hesitate to call or email — we are happy to help.

In our continued push for better public policy, Research!America was pleased to join the Coalition of Small Business Innovators (CSBI). One of the key goals of this coalition is to address weaknesses in the R&D tax credit that mute its positive impact on biomedical and other critical innovation. As it stands, some innovators are currently unable to reap the intended benefits of the credit due to the nature of their startup or small business. By expanding the tax credit in targeted ways, capital-intensive small businesses and startups will be able to receive the same federal benefits for conducting R&D as large and established businesses. These changes, if enacted, could increase total investment in small businesses by $20.6 billion, result in an estimated 623,000 jobs, and open a world of possibility for innovation and medical progress through research.

To help call attention to the role of basic research in medical innovation, early-career scientists are encouraged to register for the upcoming Research Matters Communications Workshop at George Washington University on October 9. With a stellar lineup of speakers and panelists as well as a varied, interactive format, it’s a can’t-miss event! Please visit our website to find more information, register and share the invitation with early-career scientists in your network.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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