Monthly Archives: January, 2014

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Breakthrough year?

Dear Research Advocate:

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama acknowledged the important role federally funded research plays in maintaining our global competitive edge and referenced the harm done to basic science by sequestration. Using the example of vaccines, he highlighted the importance of applied research, not only for our health but for the strength of our economy. See my statement about the address here. For the president to succeed in achieving a “breakthrough year for America” — a theme in his address that he is repeating in appearances across the nation — we urge him to put science and innovation at the forefront. I emphasized this in a letter we sent to him today.

During the State of the Union Congressional Debrief sponsored by The Atlantic and National Journal, I asked Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO-01) whether Congress would work with the president to undo the damage done to basic research. She said that she and others are working in a bipartisan way to assure that “America is the top nation for research in the world.” In an effort to combat the underfunding and underappreciation for federally funded science, our award-winning voter education initiative is launching shortly —  “Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Progress a Priority?” It is critical that we all ask congressional candidates their views about assuring medical progress. I encourage you to participate in this important campaign as we enter the primary and then general election season.

Last week, the attention of the business community and other leaders was trained on Davos, Switzerland. Comments by Harvard economist Larry Summers at the World Economic Forum put U.S. underinvestment in medical progress into context. It’s a message worth repeating. “We are spending 25 [percent] less on research in the life sciences than we were five years ago. That is a deficit with huge human consequences. We have to move on from viewing deficits in terms of financial debt and focus on the deficits we are bequeathing to our children.”

Please join me in extending hearty congratulations to Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Edward Porter, who will receive the National Academy of Sciences’ most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal, at a ceremony this spring. This award, rarely given to a non-scientist, recognizes John for decades of advocacy on behalf of medical research and salutes his many accomplishments, including leadership in the Congress for medical and all scientific research, resulting in increased federal support of our nation’s science agencies.  He continues his leadership for science today!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

January 29, 2014

It’s heartening President Obama chose to emphasize in his speech the significance of federally funded basic research and the need to undo the damage that has been done to it in recent years with deep spending cuts. The president used language the science community epitomizes – he spoke of working for “breakthroughs” and a nation motivated by opportunity. But actions speak louder than words. Congress and the White House must treat research and innovation as the health and economic imperative it has always been and invest in expanding our nation’s research capacity. It bears on business and job creation in both the research and manufacturing sectors; it bears on our nation’s ability to slow or stop the progression of disabling, deadly and federal deficit-perpetuating diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease; and most importantly, it bears on the quality of life for Americans now and in the future. Our elected officials must eliminate sequestration for good and support medical innovation at the level of scientific opportunity to ensure more breakthroughs in coming years.

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Research!America Chair John Porter to Receive National Academy of Sciences’ Public Welfare Medal

John Edward PorterResearch!America’s chair, The Honorable John Edward Porter, has been named the 2014 winner of the Public Welfare Medal, given by the National Academy of Sciences. The award recognizes Porter’s decades of advocacy on behalf of scientific and medical research.

Established in 1914, the Public Welfare Medal is the most prestigious award given by the Academy.

“John Porter’s amazing ability to excite policy makers and the public about the great promise of science and medicine is directly responsible for the support of numerous research projects that are advancing biomedical science and enabling treatment of devastating illnesses,” said National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone, PhD. “We are pleased that he will accept our highest award.”

The Public Welfare Medal will be presented to Porter on April 27 during the Academy’s 151st annual meeting at the National Academy of Sciences Building, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC. More information, including a list of past recipients, is available at www.nasonline.org/public-welfare-medal.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Are you satisfied with the State of the Union?

Dear Research Advocate:

Anticipating the 2014 State of the Union address next Tuesday evening, I have been searching for the right descriptor — the union is “in a state of resignation”? “The state of the union is not as bad as it could be”? “The union is in a state that falls short of its potential”? “The Americans forming this union are in a state of disappointment regarding their elected leaders”? A headline from The Washington Post last week addresses the latter point: “Congratulations on your budget, Congress. America still hates you,” i.e. no uptick for those low ratings for congresspersons of either party! The president’s rating with the public is a bit better (though not high) as he takes the annual opportunity to discuss the nation’s progress relative to enduring objectives such as economic strength, robust national defense capability, a balanced budget and, implicitly, global leadership and influence. As we all know, the state of our nation’s science and technology enterprise intersects all of these objectives, but the odds are against that point being made. The pols don’t believe there are votes in talking about science, and this year is all about rounding up votes. Yet there are a number of reasons voters should question candidates about their position on research and innovation: because of the good jobs and revenue today; because our global competitiveness in export markets extends into the future; and because medical and human progress remains an enduring and defining contribution that our nation makes to its people and to the world.  Continue reading →

Hematologists Fight for Biomedical Research Funding, Physician Reimbursement at 2013 ASH Annual Meeting

Guest post by ASH Government Relations, Practice, and Scientific Affairs.

AshBetween presentations of cutting-edge research and sessions on emerging trends in hematology, attendees of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) annual meeting last December emailed Congress and strategized ways to encourage Members of Congress to protect existing and future NIH funding and reform physician payment under Medicare.

The 2013 ASH Annual Meeting presented a vital opportunity for hematologists to mobilize on these two challenging issues facing the field and ASH’s group of member advocates, called the ASH Grassroots Network, had a strong presence at the recent annual meeting in New Orleans. During the meeting, members of the Grassroots Network gathered for a special luncheon event to learn more about ASH’s current advocacy priorities and how they could become effective advocates for the following immediate issues in Congress of critical importance to hematology:

  • FY2014 budget negotiations, particularly regarding NIH funding
  • A 24 percent cut in Medicare reimbursement payments to physicians, mandated by the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate Formula (SGR)
  • The February 7, 2014, deadline to raise the debt ceiling  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Promising process; disappointing progress

Dear Research Advocate:

The omnibus appropriations bill about to become law demonstrates that bipartisanship and pseudo-regular order is achievable. We won’t know for sure if we have true “regular order” until Congress proceeds through the FY15 appropriations process in a timely manner — something that hasn’t happened for many years. The importance of regular order is that the public’s interests are heard from in hearings, and every Member of Congress participates in priority-setting instead of only having the opportunity to cast a single up-or-down vote. Regular order is worth working toward, since at least one priority we all care about did not fare well in the omnibus.

The omnibus has failed to fund NIH at a level that fully reverses the impact of sequestration on the agency’s baseline funding level, much less establishes a growth trend that can fully unleash the potential inherent in the sequencing of the human genome and other research breakthroughs. As Drs. Paul Stoffels and Alan Leshner make crystal clear in an op-ed in Politico Magazine, we can’t settle for “better than sequestration.” If our nation wants to thrive, we need to grow our investment in science. Between 2010 and 2013, U.S. federal investments in science fell to less than 1% (.82%) of the economy. That’s the lowest it’s been in 50 years! As you know, this comes at a time when foreign nations are rapidly ramping up their R&D programs and taking a page from our playbook. Remember that global competitiveness in medical research is a pivotal determinant of our global economic competitiveness overall. We aren’t just talking about the future of our scientific enterprise, we are talking about the future of our economy. Are we truly willing to cede leadership in global R&D? (See also our statement cited in The Hill and other media outlets, as well as my interview today with UDC.) Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on Omnibus Bill

We applaud portions of the omnibus bill that support the nation’s research, innovation and public health ecosystem, which works to assure our future health and economic well-being. The growth in funding for the Food and Drug Administration, fueled in part by the common-sense return of the 2013 user fees, as well as the increases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Science Foundation are welcome news.

But funding for the National Institutes of Health has been kept well below the level of scientific opportunity. We must eliminate sequestration once and for all, and grow our investment in NIH in order to slow and halt the progression of diseases and disabilities ranging from Alzheimer’s to diabetes to traumatic brain injury. The appropriators have worked in good faith to move the nation forward.  But as long as Congress avoids the primary issues fueling our national debt – tax and entitlement reform – it will be difficult to invest robustly in solutions to our problems.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Back to regular order, sort of?

Dear Research Advocate:

Following the lead of Budget Chairs Murray (D-WA) and Ryan (R-WI-01), Appropriations Chairs Mikulski (D-MD) and Rogers (R-KY-05) are trying to end the recent string of continuing resolutions and craft a funding compromise that advances the nation’s best interests. Congress may miss its January 15 deadline for appropriations, but it won’t likely shut down the government. We anticipate a short-term extension of the deadline while appropriators in both chambers work to craft an omnibus bill that reflects today’s priorities instead of blind, across-the-board cuts. It’s about time, you’re thinking (and I agree!) that Congress gets back to “regular order.” Regular order includes listening to constituents, content experts and advocates. That’s where you come in. Here is a link to the appropriators and the contact information for their legislative directors (LDs). Emailing their LDs may be the fastest route to reaching the members themselves. Tell them that you endorse their determination to appropriate in keeping with national priorities — and tell them what your priorities are. Continue reading →

Medical Research is Far-Reaching. It Saves Lives, Provides Hope, Fuels our Economy and More.

Recently, progress has been made in Congress that must not be confused for victory but is momentum to be capitalized on. For instance, the bipartisanship and compromise that we’ve seen in Congress is the first step in a long journey that is necessary for medical and health research to flourish and which provides temporary relief from sequestration. Now is the time to carry forward.

Advocates cannot tiptoe around other far-reaching truths: Our global competitiveness is at risk, young scientists are leaving the profession as fewer grants are awarded, Americans are dying, health care costs are exploding, and the facts prove it. Investing in innovation, at levels set to match and exceed scientific opportunity, is the best way to improve the well-being (both health and economic) of future generations. Send a message to Congress now to maximize funding for agencies that sponsor medical and health research!

Take action now.

Resolved: Research for Health a Higher National Priority in 2014

Dear Research Advocate,

This is the time of year when many of us attempt to translate our successes, defeats, observations and unfulfilled goals into New Year’s resolutions. I have some thoughts about resolutions in the context of advocacy for research to improve health. I welcome your feedback as Research!America continues to fight for funding and a policy environment that propels medical and health progress forward.

1) We will not only push for pro-innovation policy making, we will push for policy making itself. In other words: leadership, bipartisanship and compromise. The recent bipartisan, bicameral budget action in Congress is a small step in the right direction, but it is just the beginning of a long journey. Without a clear vision of the future and a cooperative spirit across parties, across disciplines and across sectors, support for research will continue to stagnate.

2) We will not only fight to end sequestration and dispense with draconian budget caps, we will fight for tax and entitlement reform. Without the latter, some manner of assault on discretionary budget priorities is inevitable.

3) We will fight to ensure that the voices of Americans are heard when it comes to making research and innovation a higher priority. In launching our election-year voter education campaign, we will reach out to the hearts and minds of Americans nationwide, seeking media as well as policy maker and would-be policy maker attention to a topic that is taken too much for granted.

4) We will not lower our expectations. The budget compromise is a good thing, but the most essential thing is making research for health a much higher national priority. Other nations are doing this; why not the U.S.? We must not tiptoe around the truth: Our global leadership and competitiveness in the research arena is slipping away from us; young scientists crucial to future medical progress are leaving the profession (or moving to China); Americans are dying prematurely or living with chronic pain, severe mobility limitations and other profoundly challenging disabilities; and health care costs remain a difficult issue. Investing in an environment that empowers public and private sector funded research is the appropriate countermeasure to these grim realities; why is it being ignored? The most eye-opening report on the impending loss of U.S. global leadership that I have read of late is Michael Specter’s “Letter from Shenzhen” in the current New Yorker; it follows on my “Sputnik moment” LTE in The New York Times almost eerily, although this time it’s not about space science but the genome.

Our work plan for 2014 — the year Research!America marks as our 25th anniversary — is to work in close collaboration with our members and our colleagues in the advocacy community to build and execute strategies around these resolutions. Together, we will work to achieve higher funding for our federal health agencies; smart policies that empower, rather than impede, private sector innovators; and, most importantly, unleash the palpable potential for making unprecedented medical progress. Please join me in kicking off the new year by reaching out to policy makers, especially appropriators working against a tight deadline, with messages of resolve for 2014.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley