Dear Research Advocate:
My colleagues at Research!America have shared the role as author of our weekly letter during my recent sabbatical. My thanks to them for providing timely and actionable information to our wide network. As I am “re-entering” the Washington space, I have been struck by (1) the significantly worse condition of the roads — potholes everywhere, and now even sinkholes in DC! I’ve been in several global capitals this spring, including in less-developed countries, and DC doesn’t look good in comparison. Via recent domestic travels, I can attest to the poor condition of our roads nationwide, taking a toll on vehicles and our economy, while eroding public confidence in government. Public goods — like infrastructure, education and science — that we have long nurtured through steady investment cannot continue to be resource-starved without dire consequences. No wonder the American public is angry at Washington! (2) I have come back just in time to witness the appropriations process grind to a halt. The clock is ticking down toward August recess, and appropriators have a new excuse for failure to take action, i.e., the migrant children emergency. There will always be national emergencies. By definition they are unpredictable, and some are more complex than others; it nonetheless cannot be acceptable for Congress to grind to a halt when one occurs.
So what will become of FY15 appropriations? Senator Mikulski (D-MD), who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, has now acknowledged that regular order may not be feasible this year and that an omnibus appropriations measure is a more realistic goal. Thus Congress is once again facing the prospect of passing one or more short-term continuing resolutions (CR) to keep government running after September 30th, when the fiscal year ends, until an omnibus is passed, most likely after the election. For research advocates, this means that in addition to pushing for robust funding levels in FY15, we need to make the case for “anomalies,” exceptions to the CR that provide additional funding for specific agencies. It is an uphill battle to achieve these anomalies, but agencies we care about have received additional dollars in the past through this funding mechanism, and there is ample justification. But this won’t happen without hard work on the part of advocates. As discouraging as the current climate is, we can’t afford to let up on the drumbeat of the value of research. We’re not just going for the attention that comes of being a “squeaky wheel,” but seeking to remind the American public and their elected representatives that science is aligned to so many essential American values, responsible for our prosperity over many generations, and critical to our health and well-being. For more insight on the American value of research and its path forward, don’t miss the National Academy of Sciences’ recent report: Furthering America’s Research Enterprise.
New in our advocacy fact sheet series highlighting the personal stories of medical research is Averl Anderson, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2009. She has participated in clinical studies since shortly after her diagnosis and speaks out to other patients stressing that tomorrow’s cures are dependent on today’s clinical trials. Federal agencies, industry and Congress are all concerned about the many challenges facing clinical trials, including, but not limited to, enrolling enough patients to make them meaningful. If you have insights on how to remedy the clinical trial ecosystem, this is the time to share them with Congress’ 21st Century Cures Initiative, which is focused on clinical trial modernization and patient perspectives this very week. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.