Last week, we held our inaugural Advocacy Academy, bringing 12 postdoctoral researchers from across the U.S. to Washington, D.C. A two-day advocacy training program that culminated in Congressional visits with the participants’ representatives. We selected this group of motivated and concerned early-career scientists from a diversity of institutions, including Northeast Ohio Medical University, UCSF, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, Weill Cornell Medical College, the University of Washington and Banner Sun Health Research Institute, Eli Lilly and Company, as well as local researchers at the National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. For these young researchers, sequestration and budget cuts have clamped down on available resources to investigate diseases in the lab and raised concerns about the viability of a future career in research. Feeling compelled to take action, these postdoctoral research fellows came to Washington to convey the personal and societal importance of medical and health research. And they did a terrific job.
The training included an introduction to science policy, the legislative process and the budget, followed by practical information on how to communicate with non-scientists and how to advocate for science on Capitol Hill. Participants had the opportunity to interact with Research!America CEO Mary Woolley and Board Chair the Honorable John Edward Porter as well as the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Academic Research Fellows (AACP Fellows), who were participating in a separate advocacy training. During day two, Academy participants visited their congressional members’ offices. They spoke to legislators on both sides of the aisle about the importance of robust and stable funding for health and biomedical research. The Advocacy Academy came to an end with Research!America’s annual National Health Research Forum , where leaders in government agencies, industry, and academia came together to share some “Straight Talk” about federally-funded research. Research!America would like to thank Joanne Carney of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Susan Heavey of Reuters, AACP, the Parkinson’s Action Network, Kids v Cancer, Dr. Emilie Marcus of Cell Press, as well as Dr. Erin Cadwalader and Jessica Phoumindr (formerly with Research!America) for their contributions to making this training a meaningful event for Advocacy Academy participants. We are grateful to Pfizer for providing an education grant, making this program possible.
Several Advocacy Academy participants have shared their thoughts on the Academy and the need for advocacy with us:
“I have always been interested in public outreach involving the sciences, but the Research!America Advocacy Academy allowed me to fully realize and develop a passion for policy. The Advocacy Academy compiled an amazing group of mentors and panelists that made for a very rich and varied experience. Having never been to Capitol Hill before I found it genuinely rewarding to speak with members of Congress and I will continue to stay involved thanks to Research!America.” – Gillian Braden, VMD, The Tri-Institutional Training Program (Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical College, The Rockefeller University), New York, NY
“The two days of advocacy in Washington D.C. underscored the lack of movement on behalf of the scientist located in the United States and that the government’s job is to listen to the citizens. If scientists continue to stay quiet then the government will simply listen to those that want to speak. For most scientists it can be a monumental effort to speak publicly for their research. However, with the sequestration in place it is the time to speak and advocate or accept the fact that your career may not be an option in the near future.” – Jeffery G. Mellot, PhD, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, OH
“My first experience to the Capitol Hill as a science advocate to meet with congressional staff has been tremendously inspiring! Thank you Research!America for equipping me with effective scientific communication skills to engage elected representatives and the general public with important issues in biomedical and health research. It is together that we can make a difference!” – Tracy T. Chow, PhD, UCSF, San Francisco, CA
“I highly recommend that every researcher take part in programs like the Advocacy Academy, to develop skills that extend beyond the laboratory, because it is our responsibility as scientists to reach out to policy makers and to the public to ensure scientific research remains a top priority in our country.” – Christopher D. O’Donnell, PhD, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, MD
“The Advocacy Academy provided a 360 degree view of the politics surrounding health and science research policy. The discussion surrounding the effects of budget cuts on core research funding agencies motivated me to be the voice of a scientist and share the impacts of the sequester on scientific research. I now find myself determined to increase the public awareness of the importance of funding for health research. Thanks to the Advocacy Academy, I feel that I have the tools to accomplish this task.” – Chloe N. Poston, PhD, Eli Lilly and Company, Indianapolis, IN