Dear Research Advocate:
Research!America, in partnership with the American Society of Hematology, released a new poll on Tuesday, revealing strong feelings about the consequences of recent fiscal debacles. A majority (57%) of Americans, across party lines, believe that the government shutdown in October caused significant harm to programs like medical research, defense and education, programs that Americans value. It is not difficult to connect the dots between fiscal dysfunction and the future of our nation: More Americans than ever believe that our nation’s global leadership in science, technology and research will soon be a thing of the past,with 73% saying we will lose global leadership by 2020 — just six years from now. A plurality says China will surpass us by then. This perception is not far off base. China and other countries, including most recently Mexico, are making major commitments to their research and innovation infrastructure. They are determined to drive their economy and contribute to health and prosperity by following what was for years the leadership example set by the U.S.
Last month, following President Enrique Peña Nieto’s leadership, the Mexican Congress increased the budget for the primary national science and technology agency by 20% for 2014 and increased the nation’s overall science budget by 12%. Battelle predicts that China’s dramatic increases in federal research spending have positioned the nation to overtake the U.S. in total R&D investment within a few short years. It’s high time we match the bold visions of Mexico, China and many other nations.
Our polling also reveals that nearly two-thirds of Americans say it’s likely there will be another government shutdown as Congress continues to flounder on budgeting. And they may be right; on and off the Hill, opinions are mixed on the likelihood of a deal being reached by the Budget Conference Committee by the December 13 deadline. Hot topics in negotiation are sequestration for FY14 and FY15 as well as fees, in lieu of taxes, to raise revenues.
Advocates know the importance of timing in keeping the critical nature of research front-of-mind. And now is that time. An NDD United press conference Monday highlighted both the long- and short-term effects of sequestration on health and research, as well as in other areas. In the coming days we must keep our message in the conversation, loud and clear. You have a chance to do that tomorrow morning. C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” is holding its 3-hour morning call-in show on the NIH campus; featuring a discussion of the impact of sequestration on NIH broadly as well as on the study of cancer, genomics, mental health and infectious diseases. We encourage all advocates for research to watch or listen (it’s televised, streamed online and available on radio) and call in or tweet @cspanwj to share your stories. This is an opportunity to reinforce the value of research at a critical time in congressional negotiations.
Advocacy works when it connects the dots and when there is lots of it — your voice is needed. Research!America and our partners celebrated Public Health Thank You Day last Monday with many, many op-eds, letters to the editor, social media and online messages. Individuals and organizations across the U.S. and beyond joined their voices to bring awareness to public health. The milestone outcomes of public health are certainly a cause to celebrate, but without continued federal resources to support public health at the local, state and federal level, public health (as well as medical and health research) does not have a bright future. America’s vision is dimming.