A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Americans say scientists aren’t communicating the impact of science

Dear Research Advocate:

Since President Obama declared 2014 as a “year of action” in his State of the Union address, several people have asked my view on how the president might advance science by executive order. Some options that come to mind: the president can (1) pump up the budget for NIH and other science agencies in his FY15 budget blueprint, scheduled for release in early March; (2) require an assessment of the impact on innovation, access and economic growth before making any administration-initiated cuts to drug, biologic or device reimbursement; and (3) designate a task force to formulate a national science strategy.

As several Members of Congress noted after the president’s address, American progress can’t be achieved solely by executive order. But rather than debating constitutional authority, it’s past time for the administration and Congress to work together to advance the priorities of the Americans who hired them. Congress is reportedly getting a jump-start on the FY15 appropriations process, so this is perfect timing for advocates to make the case for science funding levels that capitalize on the multi-faceted return on that investment.

Research!America has new poll data showing that only 31% of Americans believe scientists effectively communicate the impact of science. This finding should serve as a wake-up call. Our national research ecosystem is remarkable but — sadly — all too often invisible. We can’t rely on science to speak for itself; it’s something we have to give a face and a voice to — yours! If science stays invisible to the public, we can’t expect the public’s continuing support. Johns Hopkins Medicine recently launched a new video series, “Science Out of the Box,” to communicate recent research to a broad audience. The first episode uses Play-Doh to explain groundbreaking breast cancer research and describes the partnerships that make it possible, connecting the dots between research, innovation and daily lives. Whether using props and strong production values in a video, or speaking one-on-one to non-scientist family members and friends, there is a role for every scientist to talk about the value of science.

Won’t you get involved in making the case for science? Please get in touch with us at Research!America for assistance. Let’s work toward doubling the “impact factor” by this time next year!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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