Dear Research Advocate:
People everywhere are captivated by the world-class athletes competing at the Winter Olympics. The personal commitment, dedication and motivation on display is certainly an essential ingredient for medalling, but it is not sufficient: Each nation fielding a team must commit to supporting sustained excellence. And both the public and private sectors play a role. There are some interesting parallels to science and innovation — we don’t see it in the public eye every day but when it comes to the fore, it’s the kind of success that affirms the human spirit in a compelling way. When lives are saved with a new therapy or new vaccine, we all take heart and we celebrate, perhaps not realizing that it took years of training, teamwork and ‘practice’ to arrive first at the finish line. What it takes to remain internationally competitive in any global arena — very much including science and innovation — is the combination of well-trained and dedicated people at the top of their form, plus a firm national commitment over a many-year period.
In journalistic coverage that we don’t see often enough, a special report in Monday’s Washington Post describes how government-funded basic research has led to new cancer therapies and a potential “cancer vaccine” currently undergoing testing in the private sector. This is a perfect example of the well-honed teamwork that is our public-private sector research enterprise. But without public sector financing, private sector capital and a commitment to STEM education, the pipeline will not only dry up, its infrastructure will crumble. As Congress readies itself to receive and respond to the president’s budget in early March, email your representatives in Washington to let them know that when it comes to medical research and innovation, the U.S. must continue to go for the gold. That means recommitting to global leadership.
With long-standing champions of science retiring, spurring that commitment will undoubtedly be a steeper climb. Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist whose legacy in Congress as a champion for science, research and STEM education is truly superlative, announced his retirement on Tuesday. His is the latest retirement in a string that reminds us how pivotally important one Member of Congress can be in advancing the best interests of our nation, and it underscores the importance of cultivation of new champions.
Tomorrow morning several NIH directors (NINDS, NICHD, NHLBI and NIAMS) will appear on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. The call-in program airs from 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. Eastern. I hope you take advantage of participating in this nationally broadcast program. Ask the directors what they think it will take to assure gold-medal winning research now and in the years ahead! Here are the Washington Journal’s phone numbers for calling in tomorrow:
- Democrats: 202-585-3880
- Republicans: 202-585-3881
- Independents: 202-585-3882
- Outside U.S.: 202-585-3883
I hope to hear your voice on the air!