A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Pope Francis is the Man of the Year; do you know what the Word of the Year is?

Dear Research Advocate:

Here’s a holiday surprise! I am not referring to the budget deal, but to the fact that Merriam-Webster’s 2013 word of the year — determined via the greatest increase in online searches — is “science.” I find this to be refreshing news, providing evidence that interest in science is growing, which in turn is an indication of substantial room for researchers and research advocates to contribute to public understanding and support of science. We appear to have an opportunity ready for the taking to overcome the “invisibility” problem that contributes to holding decision makers back from assigning a higher priority to science.

And speaking of those decision makers, we have a budget deal! While modest at best, it is a starting point for bipartisanship in serving the public’s interest. We can build on this foundation. Please add your voice, as funding is being determined by appropriators. Click here to urge your Members of Congress to support robust funding for NIH, NSF, FDA, CDC and AHRQ. This week, we’ve released our annual Health R&D Investment report, which could provide new context for your messages. The report shows some gains in philanthropy, industry, and voluntary health association support for research but notes woefully inadequate federal funding, especially given what’s at stake for our health and our economy.

Yesterday, actress Glenn Close, who will receive our 2014 Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion next March 12, was on Capitol Hill advocating for passage of legislation to increase payments to community behavioral health providers if they follow new mental health care criteria. This legislation, sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), is part of a larger conversation about what a future grounded in a more determined commitment to evidence-based care holds for patients and caregivers. Research is obviously the lynchpin. Last Monday, the Friends of Cancer Research posted a conversation about the future of cancer and biomedical research with NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD. It is the inaugural conversation in a series titled “Engaging Innovation!”

Director Collins and several NIH Institute Directors appeared live on C-SPAN’s nationally broadcast Washington Journal for three hours last week to make the case for medical research funding and field questions from callers. Research!America’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute Science Policy Fellow, Samantha White, PhD, asked Collins about the impact of inadequate funding on young scientists; he said Sam represents “the voice of the young scientific cohort that I’m most concerned about.” The difficulty young scientists are having today puts us at risk for losing an entire generation of innovators and researchers. I am so pleased that Sam helped make that point to a broad audience that views and listens to this nationally broadcast program; it harkens back to the implication of science being declared “word of the year.” If more scientists and patient advocates take the time to engage the non-science public, demonstrating accountability and explaining how science is all about answering questions and finding solutions to problems that matter to people, more of those people would ask their policy makers to take steps to assure that research and innovation have the policy climate and funding support they need to function at the level of scientific opportunity.

My very best wishes to you and yours for the upcoming holidays. Thank you for all you are doing to make our world a better place.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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